Consortium program

Improving operational reliability in the oil sands

The Materials and Reliability in Oil Sands (MARIOS) program tackles industry-wide maintenance and reliability issues. The goal of MARIOS is to develop knowledge and validate technologies to significantly reduce downtime, and improve operational reliability and productivity in the oil sands industry. The consortium links oil sands producers, materials and equipment suppliers, fabricators, and technology providers to collaboratively solve industry-wide problems.

Quick Facts

  • Program Director: Dr. Gary Fisher
  • Focused on improving equipment reliability and durability in oilsands mining
  • Applied research, development and deployment driven and directed by industry
  • Membership includes four oilsands mining companies and more than 40 equipment and materials manufacturers
  • Consortium established in 2008
  • Industry impact valued at more than $100 million

What's on this page?

Program Focus Areas

Program Focus Areas

Membership Benefits

Membership Benefits

MARIOS Members

MARIOS Members





Program Focus Areas

Mining Equipment

Oilsands surface mining equipment operates in extremely harsh conditions where rapid wear and high equipment failure rates result in high maintenance costs, unexpected failures, and expensive process bottlenecks.

Operators have identified several focus areas where the impacts are most significant. These areas include electric rope shovel ground engaging tools (GETs), dozer and grader GETs, dozer undercarriages, rope shovel cables, and haul truck tires. To prioritize efforts, this portfolio will focus on electric rope shovel ground engaging tools (GETs) and haul truck tires. These components are singled out due to their high impact on the value chain, the high rate of wear and high cost of replacements. Improvements to the wear and reliability will reduce maintenance costs and, in some cases, prevent the need for an increase in equipment fleet size to cover downtime.

Portfolio Manager: Gary Fisher
Close up visual of Haul truck tires.

Processing Equipment

Maintenance and repair within the Canadian mining sector is a $15 billion annual issue.  A major contributing factor is pervasive material wear throughout the surface mining industry from extraction to sizing and blending.  All such equipment is subject to abrasive, impact and erosive wear.  Wear has a detrimental effect on component durability and reliability due to material loss and equipment failure.

Equipment reliability issues associated with wear are particularly prevalent in the oil sands industry.  Surface mining can be used to recover approximately one fifth of the oil sands deposits in northern Alberta.  Approximately two tonnes of sand must be processed to produce one barrel of oil, with current production rates averaging at 1.4 million barrels per day.  This scale of production results in significant wear related issues, affecting equipment lifetime and reliability. The issues can be weather dependent with wear rates increasing in the winter due to the frozen ore. 

This portfolio focuses on the development and selection of manufacturing processes and materials to enable improved equipment reliability in aggressive wear conditions.  Technology areas include:

  1. protective overlays and sintered materials, and
  2. repair technologies and advanced manufacturing processes, e.g. WA-AM of large scale components.
Portfolio Manager: Dave Waldbillig
Robotic welder


An exceptionally aggressive type of corrosion has been the subject of investigation due to the extensive damage it is causing to water piping systems throughout oilsands operations. This phenomenon has demonstrated the ability to cause extensive damage through extreme pitting, and at the same time, create massive formations of corrosion products which can obstruct flow in pipes, or lead to damage downstream. Recently it has led to rapid failures on carbon steel piping as well as in welded stainless-steel fittings, even under mild operating conditions with near-neutral pH water. The causes of this type of corrosion have been so poorly understood that it has been attributed to anything from specific microbial colonies to flow regimes, water chemistry, temperature, and ground water fluctuations. This is extreme type of corrosion is known as tuberculation.

Common issues facing producers that are being addressed by this portfolio include:

  1. understanding the corrosion mechanisms and the estimation of piping lifespan where tuberculation is occurring, and
  2. flow effects and pressure drops due to tubercule build up and effective material selection and NDE technologies.
Portfolio Manager: Matt Krantz
Close up view of pipe tuberculation corrosion.

Robotics and Monitoring  

Oil sands mining and in-situ production assets are designed, operated, and maintained to achieve specified mission run times in order to achieve bitumen production targets and to allow for reliable operations. Both planned and unplanned asset outages due to excessive wear or failure can have serious consequences for the asset owner/operator. Asset outages can disrupt bitumen production, increase maintenance costs, and negatively impact the environment (e.g. process leaks).  Significant changes to operations (e.g. increased production) can affect asset reliability, maintenance, and total cost of ownership. Each producer addresses these challenges with risk management systems.

Asset inspection data, forecasting, and modelling are critical inputs into a producer’s risk management system. Each producer uses a risk management system to make decisions on how to control for asset damage, failure, and downtime. Manual inspections, sensors, other non-destructive testing (NDT) methods, and modelling are used on production-critical assets and components.

This portfolio will produce a roadmap of current technology-needs for NDT methods and process modeling in the oil sands mining industry. Project plans will then be initiated to address these high priority issues. The portfolio also includes hosting an annual workshop on slurry pump operations.

Portfolio Manager: Marcius de Oliveira
Employee assessing pipeline infrastructure.

Advanced Materials

Mining equipment is subject to operation in aggressive conditions. The main wear mechanisms encountered when extracting oil sands are abrasion, impact and erosive wear. Abrasion is the most common form of wear, with rates being determined by factors such as sand angularity and applied load.. Impact-related damage to equipment can be caused by rocks and boulders in the deposits. During the winter months, the ore can freeze and consolidate, increasing the level of impact damage. The addition of hot water in hydrotransport operations creates wear-corrosion issues, with corrosive species acting to accelerate erosive wear rates.

These issues have led to the wide adoption of protective materials to increase component longevity and reliability. This portfolio evaluates new materials that can potentially offer step changes in performance for mining equipment. Technologies of interest include metallic alloys, composites, sintered carbides, ceramics, rubbers and polymers

Portfolio Manager: Gary Fisher
Advanced Materials

Membership Benefits

MARIOS members receive many benefits, including: 

  • Access to technical research in the four portfolios
  • License-fee free use of technology developed in MARIOS to support members’ research and development
  • Attendance at workshops
  • Opportunity to present at semi-annual technical workshops
  • Networking with oil sands mining companies and suppliers/manufacturing supply chain
  • Access to training seminars and courses.
An InnoTech worker inspecting a pipe
InnoTech employee with testing equipment

Solving industry-wide challenges

Visit the MARIOS members site

Membership in the Materials and Reliability in Oil Sands Program has many benefits, including access to all past technical research in our four portfolio areas and the ability to attend technical workshops. Current MARIOS members can access our members portal to access research documents and learn about past and upcoming workshops.

Visit MARIOS members portal


Oerlikon Metro finds tremendous value in being part of the MARIOS consortium, which plays an important role in bringing together and aligning oil sands producers and service providers, ensuring members are focused on the most relevant issues facing the industry today. The program provides a neutral form for members to share information and ideas while creating a great environment to connect with key personnel within the field.

Tom Petruch, Oerlikon Metro

Join MARIOS Today

Membership in the Materials and Reliability in Oil Sands Program has many benefits. Contact us for more information about how MARIOS can help you address maintenance and reliability challenges in your business.

A woman in welding gear standing beside a large metal pipe


Dr. Gary Fisher
MARIOS Director