Low field nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) relaxometry has been successfully used in the past to perform in-situ estimates of oil and water content in unconsolidated oil sand samples. This work has intriguiging applications in the oil sands mining and processing industry, in the areas of ore and froth characterization. Studies have previously been performed on a database of ore and froth samples from the Athabasca region in northern Alberta, and preliminary results have been encouraging. In this paper, supporting data is presented and refinements suggested to the previous algorithms, to improve the oil and water saturation predictions.

A suite of real and synthetic samples of bitumen, water, clay and sand have been used to investigate the physical interactions of the different components on the NMR spectra. An automated algorithm is used to separate the oil and water NMR signals, and this algorithm is tested against samples both from this zone and from other heavy oil fields. Moreover, preliminary observations regarding spectral properties indicate that it may be possible in the future to estimate the amount of clay in the samples, based upon shifts in the NMR spectra. NMR estimates of oil and water content are fairly accurate, thus enhancing the possibility of using NMR for both in-situ oil sands development and in the oil sands mining industry.

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