Numerical modelling of oil-sands tailings dam breach runout and overland flow
- Additional Document Info
- View All
Tailings dams, used for containing the residue of mining processes, are very important elements of the Alberta oil-sands industry in Canada. Potential breach of any of these dams can have catastrophic impact on the environment, economy and human health and safety. Therefore, understanding the after-breach processes is a crucial step in hazard analysis and response planning. This paper studies the potential consequence of a hypothetical oil-sands tailings dam breach by performing numerical simulations of the runout and non-Newtonian overland flow of tailings, including the resulting flooding condition and subsequent spill to nearby water bodies. A non-Newtonian dam-breach model with a visco-plastic rheological relationship is used for this purpose. The model is first validated using the 2014 Mount Polley tailings dam breach in British Columbia, before its application to investigate the flooding volume, extent, and downstream hydrograph of a hypothetical breach from a selected oil-sands tailings dam. The validation results show that the model is able to reproduce the flooding extent and water level variation (due to breach wave) at a downstream lake. The oil-sands tailings spill simulation study demonstrated the importance of considering the non-Newtonian behaviour of tailings materials as the non-Newtonian approach resulted in twice as long flood travel time and slightly less spill volume to the downstream river (i.e. Lower Athabasca River) as that of a Newtonian fluid (i.e. water). The results are also found to be highly sensitive to the rheological parameters of the tailings materials such as their viscosity and yield stress that need to be determined through proper calibration.
has subject area