A NOVEL METHOD FOR THE SEPARATION OF HYDROCARBONS FROM OIL SANDS AND OTHER SAND CONTAINING MATERIALS USING IONIC LIQUIDS

Open Access
Author:
Williams, Phillip S
Graduate Program:
Materials Science and Engineering
Degree:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
April 15, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Paul C Painter, Thesis Advisor
Keywords:
  • FTIR
  • tar sands
  • oil sands
  • bitumen extraction
  • ionic liquids
Abstract:
Bitumen is a complex hydrocarbon with components that have a broad range of molecular weight, from low to polymeric. The extraction and separation of bitumen from tar sands for the purpose of processing fuels is relatively expensive and poses several environmental challenges. Roughly two tons of tar sands are required to produce a barrel of oil and the separation of the bitumen from sand and clay requires significant amounts of energy and the use of large quantities of water. It is shown that bitumen from samples of Canadian and Utah tar sands can be recovered using ionic liquids (ILs) and an organic solvent. Essentially, a multiphase system—consisting of a sand and clay slurry, an ionic liquid layer, and an organic layer containing the bitumen—can be formed by simply mixing the components at ambient (~25°C) temperature. Effectively all of the bitumen is released from the sand. Water is not used in this stage of the separation, but relatively small amounts are used to separate entrained IL from the sand and clays. Because both the IL and water can be recycled through the system and used repeatedly, this process has the potential to ameliorate many of the environmental problems associated with current extraction methods. This technology can also be employed to solve many other drilling and refinery issues. Crude oil recovered from drilling wells often contains what is referred to as sand, but more specifically is a mixture of various minerals and silt. This oil-coated sand must be cleaned before disposal. In another drilling operation, large amounts of rock or drill-cuttings are produced and are similarly contaminated with oil, particularly if oil based “muds” have been used in drilling. Another example is the treatment and disposal of large amount of so-called oily sludge generated in refinery operations. Finally, this same idea can be employed directly to the clean-up and removal of crude oil which would wash up on beaches after disastrous oil spills like the Exxon Valdez incident.