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New technology will produce titanium from oilsands waste

Alberta, Canada-based Titanium Corporation’s patented CVW technology (Creating Value from Waste) can be integrated into the oil sands mining process to recover bitumen, solvents, valuable heavy materials, like zircon and titanium products and water from froth treatment tailings that are normally deposited directly into a tailings pond.

Canadian Natural Resources Limited or CNR is one of the largest independent crude oil and natural gas producers in the world, with its head office in Calgary. CNR and Titanium Corp. have a proposal in the final stages of approval to construct a $400 million facility at CNR’s Horizon oilsands site to produce titanium and zircon from leftover bitumen production.

Cluster of three compound crystals of zircon found recently in Malawi.

Cluster of three compound crystals of zircon found recently in Malawi.
Rob Lavinsky /

Seeking Alpha suggests the technology to be employed is a “no-brainer” for “major oil sands producers given it responds to increasing public pressure to reduce environmental impact while at the same time, saving money by recovering valuable resources.”

Zircon is used in making ceramic tiles and in refractories and foundry casting, as well as a growing array of specialty applications, including in nuclear fuel rods, catalytic fuel converters and in water and air purification systems.

Sternum implant  front

Sternum implant, front

Titanium, on the other hand, is a transition metal with a silver color, low density, and high strength. Titanium is resistant to corrosion in sea water, aqua regia, and chlorine. It’s unique properties, titanium can be alloyed with iron, aluminum, vanadium, and molybdenum, among other elements, to produce strong, lightweight alloys for just about everything from golf clubs to medical prostheses, and everything in between.

“We’re looking at the opportunity to produce valuable metals in addition to our conventional products,” said Meera Nathwani-Crowe, a manager of innovation at Canadian Natural Resources, which is partnering with Titanium Corp. to develop the project, reports CBC News.

“We’re very optimistic,” said Scott Nelson, chief executive of Titanium Corp. “This would be the first project. There are six sites that are candidates for our technology. So this would be an enormous new industry for Alberta — the production of minerals from the oilsands to be exported around the world — particularly China.”

Calgary-based Titanium Corp. is partnering with Canadian Natural Resources to extract titanium and o...

Calgary-based Titanium Corp. is partnering with Canadian Natural Resources to extract titanium and other minerals from oilsands waste.
Titanium Corp.

Creating Value from Waste
In an interview where he talked about the new technology, Nelson said, “It has a big environmental positive impact and it has an economic impact. We call it creating value from waste.”

Titanium Corp. spent $80 million on research into the new technology and received an additional $18 million in government funding while it ran pilot projects at several oilsands facilities. This year, the company’s focus is on engineering and securing financing for the construction of the $400 million facility before it goes ahead. Construction is expected to begin in 2019 with the plant becoming operational by late 2021 or early-2022.

During the pilot projects, the company produced several thousand kilograms of titanium and zircon. “[Zircon] is currently selling for about $1,300 US a tonne. We expect to recover between the zircon and titanium products, about 80,000 tonnes a year,” said Nelson. A tonne of titanium sells for about $5,000 US.

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