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How expansion barrels reduced downtime at oil sands mine

Don Horne   


Rubber-lined expansion barrels that are now being used at one of the largest integrated combined oil sands mining and refinery facilities in Fort McMurray, Alta., has significantly increased productivity, while reducing downtime.

Due to the size of the mine, oil sands slurry and sediments must travel long distances in the mine’s pipe line system. Therefore, the mine specified Trelleborg’s expansion barrels, which enable the thermal expansion and compression of pipe line systems, to facilitate extended periods of travel in diverse temperatures at the mine.

This removed the mine’s need for frequent maintenance and consequent downtime, which is caused by extensive wear on the barrel.

The expansion barrels, which were tested over a four-year period at the mine, are flexible in all directions, so they can compensate for the thermal expansion and lateral deflection in a pipe system. Thus, enabling the pumps which circulate the slurry throughout the pipe system to be protected against load forces, allowing for a safe expansion and compression.


“We were inspired by the demand of the oil sands tailings processing at the mine, due to it being a high-pressure project that demands bespoke equipment to operate in a unique environment which poses complex challenges,” says Thomas Embleton of Trelleborg. “With our in-house expertise and mining knowledge, we knew we could supply equipment to meet the demands of the mine’s environmental and business challenges, while providing a solution that can compensate for two or three expansion joints and allow for easy mounting and inspecting.”

The configuration of Trelleborg’s barrel, which can successfully operate in temperatures between minus 46-degrees Celsius and 90-degrees Celsius – and has an expansion / compression range of 910 mm – was successfully patented in Canada in 2012. The barrel also provides an installation hydraulic ram as a feature for simpler maintenance and rotation.


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