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Titanium Corporation Receives Grant To Research Extraction of Hydrocarbons and Minerals from Oil Sands Tailings

Without recovery, oil sands production is projected to lose 30 million barrels per year of bitumen and naptha by 2015. Click to enlarge.

Alberta Energy has awarded Titanium Corporation a C$3.5-million grant to research the value-added opportunities and environmental benefits of stripping out hydrocarbons and heavy minerals from oil sands tailings streams. Funding for this two-year project is being provided through Alberta’s C$200-million Energy Innovation Fund.

Titanium Corporation is a Canadian company that is developing a commercial process to maximize the value existing in waste material presently being deposited in Alberta’s oil sands tailings. Rather than channeling mine froth tailings into disposal areas, the mineral-rich stream is sent to a separation plant via pipeline where bitumen, titanium minerals, zircon and naphtha are to be recovered for commercial use. (Earlier post.)

Not only can this research result in processing industrial waste into beneficial products, but it has the potential to significantly reduce emissions and improve the environment by extracting bitumen from tailings rather than from mining.

—Energy Minister Mel Knight

The heavy minerals contained in the oil sands deposits are concentrated by the bitumen extraction/recovery process (en route to oil production). The majority of these minerals are contained in the oil sands froth treatment plant (FTP) tailings stream. Titanium Corporation’s process will intercept FTP tailings near their discharge into the tailings pond.

Two processing facilities will then treat the material recovered. A Primary Concentrator Plant will produce a Heavy Mineral Concentrate. This concentrate will then be separated in a Mineral Separation Plant into final products: ilmenite, leucoxene and zircon.

More than 90% of the world’s titanium minerals are sold to the pigment industry, which manufactures products for the paint, coating, paper and plastics industries. Another important use of titanium is in making alloys. Zircon sand is in high demand worldwide and is used by the ceramic, refractory and chemical industries. Naphtha, a liquid hydrocarbon, may also be recovered through the research project and reused for processing bitumen prior to upgrading.



Rafael Seidl

So what does cleaning up the tailings do for the quality of the waste water? Is net water consumption per barrel of oil from tar sands reduced at all?

Harvey D

It is rather odd that the Oil Sands Industries cannot pay to clean up their own mess with their yearly $39 billion profit.

Recycling-cleaning the many trillion gallons of harmful chemical mixtures in the tailings pounds will cost $$ billions, if it can be done.

Who should pay for it?

A pollution clean-up levy of $5+ a barrel could be a way to finance the works, otherwise we may have to live with those pounds for centuries.


Harvey, I hope you intend your levy to apply to oil profits and not the overburdened consumer.

Andrey Levin


Tailing ponds are, in fact, settling ponds. Unfortunately, time to settle fine silt from wastewater is measured in years, before water could be recycled for operations, and settled suspended solids (SS) could be returned to back-fill the mine. Hence huge ponds, which steam hydrocarbons into the air and seep it into the ground. Newer operations employ impermeable lining of ponds to eliminate seepage, and use coagulants to speed up SS settling. Generally, up to ¾ of water could be recycled into operations without necessity to build water treatment plant to reduce increased concentration of dissolved solids. Titanium Corp technology allows to make operation of such plants self-sustaining or even profitable.

Most of unrecovered tar is lost in coarse fraction of sand; wastewater contain relatively small amount of hydrocarbons (but more than enough to contaminate groundwater). Modern technologies could increase tar recovery from conventional 70-75% to up to 90% from open-pit tar sand mines. Naturally, application of such technologies is profitable only when price of oil is high.

Harvey D


Tar recovery between 70% and 75% and even as high as 90% still means huge volume going to the tailing ponds. As production is multiplied those ponds will have to be expanded and the maximum water usage (450,000,000 M3 a year) from the Athabasca River will be reached. This will force more recycling of the waste water in the ponds.

Some of the chemicals from the tailing ponds have already found their way into the Athabasca River. Downstream mercury is up 98%, sediment arsenic is up 114% and dissolved arsenic is up 466%. Naphthenic acid level is also going up. These may be much higher in 10 years if the extraction method is not changed and even more if operations are multiplied.

Andrey Levin

Yes, Harvey, I agree, contamination by persistent toxins like heavy metals of river water and sediments is the most troublesome problem.

Harvey D


You can rest assured that all royalties, taxes, levies or duties will be passed on to the end users. That's why we should all drive PHEV-100Km or even PHEV-200Km or even pure EVs as soon as they become available.

Menwhile we can start with the best Hybrids on the market. It seems that the new Prius in one of the best interim solution. Almost 1,000,000 users have accepted that solution.

Alternatively, many smaller vehicles like the Civic, Corolla, Elantra, Golf etc use less than 50% as much fuel than many gas guzzlers. Those are the top sellers in Canada.


Why do you hate America?

Harvey D


Things are looking up.

Some 39% (2008) instead of 35% (2006) of the world believe that America (USA) has a positive effect on world policies and well being. The other 61% ..... do not necessarily hate America, but may not be top admirers right now.


Look at the email on this person:

A login and password system is looking better all the time.

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