Volume 9, Issue 2 (February 2012)
Sustainable Use of Oil Sands for Geotechnical Construction and Road Building
Oil sands are natural deposits of bituminous sand materials that are mined and processed for crude oil. They are routinely used in oil sand fields for building temporary and sometimes permanent roads serving mining and hauling activities. Although the principal application of these materials for road building has been in the unbound layers of the pavement structure, the full benefits of oil sands, particularly their sustainability and environmental friendliness, are yet to be realized. In their natural state, oil sands have similarities to cold mix asphalt mixtures which are often comprised of uniformly graded fine to medium sands and used for pavement repair and patching applications. Yet, they may exhibit complex stress dependent characteristics and viscoelastic and plastic behavior under dynamic loading of mining and off-road construction equipment. This paper presents findings from a comprehensive laboratory research program conducted on three types of oil sand materials with the main goal to characterize their engineering behavior. The research efforts focused on establishing a suite of tests to determine strength, modulus, and deformation characteristics under realistic traffic loading and climatic conditions. The developed suite of tests established essential trends in oil sand behavior for developing laboratory guidelines and test protocols and typical material characterization models for their sustainable use in geotechnical and road building applications.