Suncor lets major contract for tailings management



Mullen Group Ltd. has announced that its wholly owned operating subsidiary Canadian Dewatering L.P. has been awarded a major contract by Suncor Energy as part of the company's new approach to tailings management at its oil sands mining operations.

'This is an important new piece of business for our organization, one that expands the service offerings Canadian Dewatering provides to one of our largest customers. Being chosen by Suncor to manage the design, build and commissioning of a state of the art Thin Fine Tailing (TFT) Barge System specifically to support Suncor's initiatives related to their tailings reduction operations has our entire organization excited and engaged,' commented Mr. Dale Marchand, President, Canadian Dewatering.

No details were provided by Mullen Group Ltd. on the Thin Fine Tailing (TFT) Barge System that will be developed for use on the the Suncor properties, but the move is part of a new approach being implemented by the energy giant to speed up the dewatering process for its massive tailings ponds.

The Suncor website notes that oil sands mines produce tailings that are a mixture of water, clay, sand and residual bitumen producing during the extraction process. When tailings are released to a pond, the heaviest material - mostly sand - settles to the bottom, while water rises to the top. The middle layer, the mature fine tailings (MFT), is made up of fine clay particles suspended in water. Some of these particles settle, but much remains suspended. The challenge is that MFT does not settle within a reasonable timeframe. As a result, Suncor has needed more and larger oil sands tailings ponds over the years.

The new approach being implemented - parts of which are still under review for regulatory approval, involves converting fluid fine tailings more rapidly into a solid landscape suitable for reclamation. In this process, MFT is mixed with a polymer flocculent, then deposited in thin layers over sand beaches with shallow slopes. The resulting product is a dry material that is capable of being reclaimed in place or moved to another location for final reclamation. This drying process occurs over a matter of weeks, allowing for more rapid reclamation activities to occur.

The Mullen Group first invested in the pumping, water management and dewatering business in 2004 with the acquisition of Northern Underwater Systems (N.U.S.) Ltd. In 2006 Mullen Group acquired Canadian Dewatering Limited based out of British Columbia, which was one of the largest providers of pumping and water management services in western Canada.

Today these companies operate under the Canadian Dewatering brand providing customers in the energy, mining, natural resource and infrastructure sectors of the economy with a wide range of service offerings including: contract dewatering services; the sale, rental and servicing of industrial pumping systems; dredging and barge services; high pressure industrial cleaning; water clarification and sediment control; and commercial diving services, throughout western Canada and the Northwest Territories.

'Our investment in specialized services like water management has proven to be a growth platform for the Mullen Group. The Canadian Dewatering group is a quality focused organization that is supported by a dedicated and skilled team. Under the strong leadership of Dale Marchand and Ian Ross, Canadian Dewatering has worked closely with their customers to identify new opportunities and to expand their service offerings. We are pleased to support their latest growth initiative and to provide the capital needed to meet Suncor's requirements,' said Mr. Murray Mullen, Chairman and CEO of the Mullen Group.

'Canadian Dewatering is quickly becoming an industry leader in providing leading edge services related to the management of and reclamation of tailing ponds, for a number of companies involved in the development of Canada's oil sands, an area where we believe considerable investment opportunities remain,' added Mr. Mullen.

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