Smart Polymers as Flocculants for Oil Sands Tailings Treatment

  • Author / Creator
    Nittala, Atreya K
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2017-11:Fall 2017
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering
  • Specialization
    • Chemical Engineering
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Soares, João (Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Liu, Qi (Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering)
    • Soares, João (Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering)
    • Chung, Hyun-Joong (Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering)