Syncrude first began investigating the Water-Capped Tailings Technology (WCTT) in the early 1980’s through the establishment of a research program founded on progressive scaled-up testing of water-capped fluid tailings. The technology involves the placement of treated or untreated fluid tailings in-pit, followed by capping with a sufficient layer of water; as a means of physically sequestering tailings solids within the pit lakes in the closure landscape and to enable low-energy water treatment processes within the engineered pit lake facility. The water layer becomes deeper as the tailings solids consolidate and release pore water. As adequate water in-flows and out-flows are established to the lake, the water quality improves over time.
The Base Mine Lake research program uses a multi-university, multi- and inter- disciplinary approach that focuses on the analysis and interpretation of monitoring data, hypothesis-driven research activities, and integration and collaboration among and between research programs. Research results are integrated with monitoring results on an ongoing basis, with the ultimate goal of identification and quantification of the processes and properties in Base Mine Lake that are responsible for the trends observed in the monitoring program. The various components comprising the Base Mine Lake monitoring and research programs are closely linked.
The current focus of the research program is to support the demonstration of the Water-Capped Tailings Technology (WCTT). The program also provides supporting information about key processes fundamental to the progression of Base Mine Lake towards becoming a functional component of the reclaimed closure landscape. The current research programs are focused on key parameters influencing early Base Mine Lake development. Recently, research and technology development has been underway to build tools for detection of bitumen mats, and to monitor gas bubble driven bitumen liberation from the bitumen mats to the water surface.