Designer Biochar-Coke Mixtures to Remove Naphthenic Acids from Oil Sands Process-Affected Water (OSPW)

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  • The objective of this 6-month pilot experimental study was to test the ability of biochars derived from Alberta biomass and an oil sands petroleum coke to remove selected organic acids from water. To this end, we selected one biochar produced from wheat straw and made by the Alberta Biochar Initiative, and an oil sands petroleum coke produced by Syncrude Canada Ltd. Both materials were extensively characterized for morphology, surface area, surface reactivity, porosity, and composition. Following this characterization, two model organic species, lauric acid and 1-methylcyclohexanecarboxylic acid, were adsorbed to the biochar, coke, and mixtures of the two, at varying ratios. Our results indicate that the biochar used in this study is a significantly more efficient sorbent for removal of both organic acids tested from water than is the petroleum coke. The petroleum coke was found to remove a lower but significant amount of each organic acid from solution. The use of petroleum coke as a sorbent will likely depend on environmental risks such as the leaching of sulphur, vanadium, and nickel from the material, and its cost relative to the production and delivery of biochar to oil sands facilities. Future studies should focus on assessing the total sorption capacity of each sorbent in flow-through reactor experiments, and determining whether combined biochar + petroleum coke systems may be efficient at removing both organic contaminants and metals from oil sands process-affected water.

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    Attribution 3.0 International