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Ionic Liquids-Based Bitumen Extraction: Enabling Recovery with Environmental Footprint Comparable to Conventional Oil

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journal contribution
posted on 09.12.2019, 19:01 by Paula Berton, Shokoufeh Manouchehr, Kyle Wong, Zohrab Ahmadi, Elsayed Abdelfatah, Robin D. Rogers, Steven L. Bryant
A nonaqueous process was developed using ionic liquids (ILs) to extract bitumen from Alberta oil sands at room temperature. Based on an IL design platform of balancing lipophilic/hydrophilic properties with possible interfacial interactions, trialkylamine/fatty acid-based ILs were studied and down-selected considering performance, cost, composition, and interaction with water. The use of protic ILs also allowed modifying the amine/acid composition to increase the bitumen extracted and decrease the solid content in extracted bitumen. Using the IL trioctylammonium oleate ([HN888]­[Oleate]) at a 1:3 IL/oil sand mass ratio, we were able to achieve bitumen extraction from high-grade Alberta oil sands of ca. 100% with low solids content (<1%) in a fast, low-energy process. Our results demonstrate that the proper design of the IL can lead to efficient oil extraction without conventional solvents, without generating aqueous tailings, and with minimum energy consumption, that is, a production process with environmental impacts comparable to those associated with production of other hydrocarbon resources.