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Smart Polymers as Flocculants for Oil Sands Tailings Treatment Open Access


Other title
pH sensitive polymers
initial settling rate
capillary suction time
CO2 influence
supernatant turbidity
mature fine tailings
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Nittala, Atreya K
Supervisor and department
Soares, João (Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Examining committee member and department
Soares, João (Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Liu, Qi (Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Chung, Hyun-Joong (Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering
Chemical Engineering
Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-11:Fall 2017
Master of Science
Degree level
The by-product slurry resulting from the bitumen extraction process from oil sands sources, known as tailings, holds substantial amount of water along with clays and fugitive bitumen. Current polymer-based dewatering technologies are centred on acrylamide-based polymers such as polyacrylamide (PAM). The main motivation to develop smart polymers is to replace PAM with more efficient polymer flocculants. This research deals with the synthesis and testing of polymers that are sensitive to pH. Solution pH levels can be tuned by introducing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the medium, which is advantageous since CO2 can be easily removed from the system by depressurization. In this work, homopolymers of dimethyl amino ethyl methacrylate (DMAEMA) and N-isopropyl acrylamide (NIPAM) and their copolymers having different molecular weight averages were synthesized using free radical addition polymerization. Their performance as flocculants and dewatering agents for mature fine tailings (MFT) was systematically evaluated using different metrics: initial settling rate (ISR), capillary suction time (CST), and turbidity of the supernatant, in the presence and absence of CO2. The best conditions from these studies were adapted to study the performance of blends made out of these polymers. The polymer blends proved to be more effective as flocculants than the individual polymers.
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