Bitumen Recovery from Oil Sands Using Deep Eutectic Solvent and Its Aqueous Solutions

Open Access
Pulati, Nuerxida
Graduate Program:
Materials Science and Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 17, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Paul C Painter, Dissertation Advisor
  • Evangelos Manias, Committee Member
  • Jonathan P Mathews, Committee Member
  • Michael Anthony Hickner, Committee Member
  • Oil Sands
  • Bitumen
  • Oil Recovery
  • Atomic Force Microscopy
  • Peakforce Tapping QNM
  • Force Measurement
  • Deep Eutectic Solvent
Oil sands compose a significant proportion of the world’s known oil reserves. Oil sands are also known as tar sands and bituminous sands, are complex mixtures of sand, clays, water and bitumen, which is “heavy” and highly viscous oil. The extraction and separation of bitumen from oil sands requires significant amount of energy and large quantities of water and poses several environmental challenges. Bitumen can be successfully separated from oil sands using imidazolium based ionic liquids and nonpolar solvents, however, ionic liquids are expensive and toxic. In this thesis, the ionic liquid alternatives- deep eutectic solvent, were investigated. Oil sands separation can be successfully achieved by using deep eutectic solvents DES (choline chloride and urea) and nonpolar solvent naphtha in different types of oil sands, including Canadian (“water-wet”), Utah (“oil-wet”) and low grade Kentucky oil sands. The separation quality depends on oil sands type, including bitumen and fine content, and separation condition, such as solvent ratio, temperature, mixing time and mechanical centrifuge. This separation claims to the DES ability to form ion /charge layering on mineral surface, which results in reduction of adhesion forces between bitumen and minerals and promote their separation. Addition of water to DES can reduce DES viscosity. DES water mixture as a media, oil sands separation can be achieved. However, concentration at about 50 % or higher might be required to obtain a clear separation. And the separation efficiency is oil sands sample dependent. The highest bitumen extraction yield happened at 75% DES-water solution for Utah oil sands samples, and at 50~60% DES-water solutions for Alberta oil sands samples. Force curves were measured using Atomic Force Microscopy new technique, PeakForce Tapping Quantitative Nanomechanical Mapping (PFTQNM). The results demonstrate that, by adding DES, the adhesion force between bitumen and silica and dissipation energy will decrease comparing to DI water. At higher concentration DES solution (>80%DES), the amount of decrease can be up to 80-90%. In lower concentration, at about 50% decrease was observed. The results provide fundamental insights into the mechanism of bitumen separation from oil sands. The reduction of adhesion force between bitumen and minerals (silica) in DES media is the main reason which facilitates the separation between them, which by means existence of DES will favor bitumen and minerals separation. Comparing to other techniques, DES based separation is environmentally compatible and economically viable. The separation can easily happen at room temperature. Choline chloride and urea are biodegradable, environmentally compatible, accessible in large scale and easily prepared by mixing and heating (<80 °C). Further improvement is needed regarding to separation quality and efficiency, either in the direction of developing better separation techniques or by looking for chemical additives which can improve separation and reduce environmental side-effects.