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Colloid Science of Sand Remediation: A Study Motivated by the Non-Aqueous Extraction of Bitumen from Oil Sands Open Access


Other title
Contact angle
Oil Sands
Micropipette technique
Naphthenic acids
Interfacial tension
Solvent extraction
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Afshar, Shima
Supervisor and department
Yeung, Anthony (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Examining committee member and department
Raghavan, Srinivasa R. (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Maryland)
Liu, Qi (Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Alberta)
Nazemifard, Neda (Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Alberta)
Choi, Phillip (Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Alberta)
Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering
Chemical Engineering
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The current water-based method of bitumen extraction requires withdrawal of fresh water from the Athabasca River — a practice which leads to the continual buildup of tailings ponds and other environmental concerns. As Alberta’s bitumen production is expected to more than double by 2020, there is now a real need to explore the possibility of an alternative non-aqueous (or solvent-based) extraction technology. The main challenge that any non-aqueous extraction method faces is the recovery of residual oil from oil-laden sand grains. In this research, we propose a possible solution of washing the sand grains with aqueous surfactant solutions. From an interfacial science perspective, for a surfactant to give good residual oil recovery, it must create low oil-water interfacial tensions (IFTs) and desirable wetting characteristics. For this part of the investigation, the challenge was to accurately determine low IFTs and contact angles on the microscale (characteristic of the pore sizes); novel micropipette techniques were developed for this purpose. Of the different surfactants we had examined, natural surfactants extracted from bitumen, which appeared to be essentially sodium naphthenates, yielded the lowest IFT (down to 0.6 mN/m) and exhibited the most desirable (i.e. hydrophilic) wetting properties. On the macroscopic scale, the overall washing efficiencies of sodium naphthenates were also quantified. The efficiencies showed very different behaviors when the system was agitated under low or high shear rate. It is proposed that this discrepancy was due to the formation of thermodynamically stable microemulsions (a third phase) in the presence of surfactants.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Shima Afshar and Anthony Yeung, entitled “Considerations When Determining Low Interfacial Tensions”, Journal of Colloid & Interface Science, 1 December 2011, Volume 364, Issue 1, pages 276-278.Shima Afshar, Leyli Mirmontazeri and Anthony Yeung, entitled “Potential Use of Naphthenic Acids in Soil Remediation: Examination of Pore-Scale Interfacial Properties”, Fuel Journal (The Science and Technology of Fuel and Energy), 116 (2014) 395–398.Leyli Mirmontazeri, Shima Afshar, and Anthony Yeung, entitled “Evaluation of naphthenic acids as a soil remediation agent: A physicochemical perspective”, Fuel Journal (The Science and Technology of Fuel and Energy), 128 (2014) 1–6.

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