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Natural gamma-ray spectroscopy (NGS) as a proxy for the distribution of clay minerals and bitumen in the Cretaceous McMurray Formation, Alberta, Canada

Day-Stirrat, Ruarri J. and Hillier, Stephen and Nikitin, Anton and Hofmann, Ronny and Mahood, Robert and Mertens, Gilles (2021). Natural gamma-ray spectroscopy (NGS) as a proxy for the distribution of clay minerals and bitumen in the Cretaceous McMurray Formation, Alberta, Canada. Fuel. 288 , 119513
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Abstract

Detailed examination of the mineralogy of the Cretaceous McMurray Formation within a facies framework is used to assess the use of natural gamma-ray spectroscopy (NGS) and a pulsed neutron generator (PNG) tool in delineating variation in clay mineral and bitumen contents. Characterization of the mixed-layer (interstratified) clay phases in the McMurray Formation provides an improved understanding of clay interaction in bitumen processing and tailings settling behavior, important for mine planning and tailings remediation schemes. Mineral diversity in the McMurray Formation was determined on facies attributed samples using whole rock X-ray diffraction (XRD), cation exchange capacity (CEC) measurements, elemental analysis (XRF), clay size fraction (<2 mu m) XRD analysis, reflected light microscopy, and cryogenic-scanning electron microscopy (cryo-SEM). Kaolinite was ubiquitous in the entire McMurray Formation with lower and middle McMurray Formation sediments also containing mixed-layered illite-smectite (I-S) with a low expandability approximate to 20-30%. Upper McMurray Formation sediments by contrast had higher expandability (approximate to 60-70%). In floodplain sediments of the lower McMurray Formation an additional clay mineral was quantified as a kaolinite-expandable mixed-layer (clay) mineral. The associated CEC values of this mineral are 10 times the baseline for the McMurray Formation. NGS spectra from cores showed that yields of potassium (K), uranium (U), and thorium (Th) had distinct facies associations, correlated with a clay mineral signature. The resultant indicator is capable of highlighting zones within an oil sands ore body that are empirically known, by industry, to process poorly through extraction plants. A bitumen indicator from the carbon yield derived from a PNG logging tool assesses bitumen content. NGS and PNG allow a full assessment of clay mineral (fines) and bitumen profiles, with the future prospect that these techniques could be used to assess ore and tailings behavior in near-real time.

Authors/Creators:Day-Stirrat, Ruarri J. and Hillier, Stephen and Nikitin, Anton and Hofmann, Ronny and Mahood, Robert and Mertens, Gilles
Title:Natural gamma-ray spectroscopy (NGS) as a proxy for the distribution of clay minerals and bitumen in the Cretaceous McMurray Formation, Alberta, Canada
Series Name/Journal:Fuel
Year of publishing :2021
Volume:288
Article number:119513
Number of Pages:19
Publisher:ELSEVIER SCI LTD
ISSN:0016-2361
Language:English
Publication Type:Journal article
Article category:Scientific peer reviewed
Version:Published version
Copyright:Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0
Full Text Status:Public
Subjects:(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 1 Natural sciences > 105 Earth and Related Environmental Sciences > Geochemistry
Keywords:Oil sands, McMurray formation, Kaolinite, Vermiculite, Kaolinite-expandable mixed-layer mineral, Natural gamma-ray spectroscopy
URN:NBN:urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-p-110411
Permanent URL:
http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-p-110411
Additional ID:
Type of IDID
DOI10.1016/j.fuel.2020.119513
Web of Science (WoS)000607081500005
ID Code:22121
Faculty:NJ - Fakulteten för naturresurser och jordbruksvetenskap
Department:(NL, NJ) > Dept. of Soil and Environment
(S) > Dept. of Soil and Environment
Deposited By: SLUpub Connector
Deposited On:04 Feb 2021 13:44
Metadata Last Modified:04 Feb 2021 13:51

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