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An oil-sand mining operation in Canada relies on heavy duty slurry pumps to move material from the mine site and through the production facility.

By Mark S. Kuhar

To efficiently move slurry material for processing.
A series of 34 pump trains manufactured by GIW.
The opening of the Jackpine Mine significantly increases the output of oil sands processing in Canada.

In September 2010, one of the Canada's largest integrated oil and gas companies opened its Jackpine Mine in Alberta for oil-sand mining operations. The Jackpine facility adds 100,000 barrels per day in production to the company's oil-sand production in Canada.

GIW played a critical part in the development of the Jackpine mining facility through the design, construction and installation of pump trains to move oil sand and its products from the mine site and through the production facility.

In addition to the technical expertise that GIW brought to the Jackpine Mine project, nearly everyone in GIW was involved in one way or another in supporting this project, from engineering to accounting. According to Nikki Rebernak, GIW’s market manager-oil sands, “Our systems improved throughout the company because of this project, allowing us to be better prepared for future projects of this scope.”

The oil sands industry is GIW’s primary market, so the company was ready for the challenge. Even so, it had to leverage the combined expertise of every GIW employee to take on this highly complex project – the largest one it has ever completed.

Critical Timeline
Planning for the Jackpine Mine began in 2004, and GIW was part of the planning from the start. GIW was brought in right away to provide input into design requirements. GIW was awarded the contract for the facility’s pump trains in 2006, and began shipping parts in 2008.

A total of 34 pump trains were developed, with parts sent from Georgia, Germany and Canada to the Jackpine site.

Because the pump trains could not be assembled and tested at GIW labs before shipment, GIW had to update its quality assurance procedures and create extensive, detailed documentation to ensure that all parts were developed to specification and went together perfectly.

GIW assembled the pump trains in 2009 and 2010, and the facility was opened for production in September of last year.

Jackpine Mine capacity
The Jackpine Mine operation has the capacity to produce 100,000 barrels of oil-equivalent product every day. To meet that capacity, the facility processes 2 million tons of oil sands every day.

With oil approaching $90 per barrel, and predicted to go up to $100 per barrel, daily production translates to more than $8 million per day. As the previous total of all oil sands development in Canada was 900,000 barrels per day, the opening of the Jackpine Mine significantly increases the output of oil sands processing in Canada.

Above and Beyond
The 34 pump trains developed by GIW are used throughout the Jackpine Mine processing facility. At the facility, the raw oil sands are combined with hot water to form a slurry. The Jackpine facility has one input conveyor, two parallel bitumen extractors, and one froth treatment plant that consists of four parallel processing lines. The resulting end products are moved out of the facility through a single pipeline.

Creating this elaborate system – and ensuring it works exactly as specified by the client – required an extraordinary commitment from GIW’s exceptional employees.

GIW operated three shifts of personnel to meet the requirements and schedule of the Jackpine Mine project. All of the pump trains, each consisting of a pump, gear reducer, motor, couplings, oil cooler and foundation pad, were developed specifically for the Jackpine operation. The largest pump provided by GIW had a 72-in. diameter impeller, weighed over 60,000 lb. and had a 5,000 hp motor.

One of the major challenges of this project was providing product documentation at all points of the development and installation processes. Thomas Mueller, GIW’s commercial director estimates that about 2,000 documents were created during the course of the project, with many documents being handled by several people multiple times during their development. Documentation had to be kept in sync with change orders from the client and input from suppliers in several different countries.

GIW personnel also collaborated to reconfigure quality assurance and customer service processes. Through effective communication and dedication to the project’s success, they’ve created new, more effective processes that not only ensure the success of this project, but will benefit all its customers going forward.

An Ongoing Relationship
GIW was involved in the Jackpine Mine from project inception through design and installation. But the relationship didn’t end there. GIW currently maintains the pump trains by providing spare parts that are delivered and replaced at the Jackpine Mine on a regular maintenance schedule.

GIW keeps about eight weeks of spare parts on hand at the REGEN Service Center in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, so they will be ready for any scheduled or unscheduled downtime that may occur. E

Information for this article courtesy of GIW,

What is Oil-Sand Mining?
Oil-sand mining is a method to extract petroleum from a geological formation called oil sands – a mixture of bitumen, clay, water and sand. Bitumen is a type of petroleum that is very thick and sticky; it is often called tar because of these properties.

Because of its viscosity, bitumen cannot be collected in the same way as crude oil. Instead, the oil sand is collected and brought to a refining facility where the particulates are removed and the bitumen is converted to synthetic oil or other petroleum products.

The largest oil-sand deposits can be found in central Canada, Venezuela and Russia. Smaller oil-sand deposits can also be found in Utah in the United States, Brazil and other countries around the world.

Until the early 2000s, oil-sand mining was not considered a cost-effective process because of the

intensive and expensive processes needed to collect and refine the oil sands. However, the increase of oil prices and increases in mining efficiency have made oil-sand mining more attractive. As reserves of crude oil are subject to gradual depletion, companies are turning to oil sands as an alternative.

How is Oil Sand Mined and Processed?
Currently, oil sands are collected by surface mining. The oil sand is gathered and mixed with hot water and caustic soda to form a slurry at the mine location. The slurry is pumped from the mine to a processing facility.

Distances between collection points and processing facilities can range from less than a mile to several miles, and pipelines use multiple pumps (pump chains) to move the slurry. Once the slurry reaches the facility, it is agitated to allow particulates to sink and cause the oil to rise to the surface. The oil is skimmed off, and is then fur

ther processed to remove other solids and refine the bitumen into synthetic petroleum products.

Newer methods allow mining companies to refine and process the oil sands in situ. In situ (Latin for “in position”) mining is generally used when surface mining is not feasible because of the depth of the oil-sand deposit.

Most in situ methods use a combination of a solvent and heat to extract the bitumen from the oil sands. Some methods include:

  • Cyclic stream stimulation.
  • Steam-assisted gravity drainage.
  • Vapor extraction process.
  • Toe-to-heel air injection

Although these methods do allow companies to access oil sand deposits that cannot be surface mined, they all suffer from efficiency rates far lower than that of surface mining.