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Scientists Develop More Efficient Way to Extract Oil from Oil Sands

Scientists Develop More Efficient Way to Extract Oil from Oil Sands

Oil sands represent approximately two-thirds of the world’s estimated oil reserves. Canada is the world’s major producer of unconventional petroleum from sands, and the U.S. imports more than one million barrels of oil per day from Canada, about twice as much as from Saudi Arabia. Much of this oil is produced from the Alberta tar sands. _Newswise

Oil Extraction from Oil Sands

Penn State researchers have developed a cleaner, more economical, and more water-efficient method of separating the bitumen component from oil sands.

Paul Painter, professor of polymer science in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Penn State, and his group have spent the past 18 months developing a technique that uses ionic liquids (salt in a liquid state) to facilitate separation. The separation takes place at room temperature without the generation of waste process water. “Essentially, all of the bitumen is recovered in a very clean form, without any contamination from the ionic liquids,” Painter explained. Because the bitumen, solvents and sand/clay mixture separate into three distinct phases, each can be removed separately and the solvent can be reused.

The process can also be used to extract oil and tar from beach sand after oil spills, such as the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon incidents. Unlike other methods of cleanup, the Penn State process completely removes the hydrocarbons, and the cleaned sand can be returned to the beach instead of being sent to landfills. In an experiment using sand polluted by the BP oil spill, the team was able to separate hydrocarbons from the sand within seconds. A small amount of water was used to clean the remaining ionic liquids from the sand, but that water was also recoverable. “It was so clean you could toss it back on the beach. _Newswise

Cleaner and more efficient methods for producing oil from abundant oil sands should make a lot of people happier and less frantic about the future of global energy supplies. Unfortunately, for too many "doomers", the only joy they get in life is from contemplating the total breakdown of global civilisation. For such as those, good news is bad news.

For the rest of us, we will do the best we can and move on from there.

By. Al Fin




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