Application of Forward Osmosis Membrane Technology for Oil Sands Process-Affected Water Desalination

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  • The extraction process used to obtain bitumen from the oil sands produces large volumes of oil sands process-affected water (OSPW). As a newly emerging desalination technology, forward osmosis (FO) has shown great promise in saving electrical power requirements, increasing water recovery, and minimizing brine discharge. With the support of this funding, a treatment system was constructed using a cellulose triacetate (CTA) forward osmosis membrane to test the feasibility of OSPW desalination and contaminant removal. The forward osmosis systems were optimized using different types and concentrations of draw solution. The forward osmosis system using 4M NH4HCO3 as a draw solution achieved 85% water recovery from OSPW, and 80% to 100% contaminant rejection for most metals and ions. A water backwash cleaning method was applied to clean the fouled membrane, and the cleaned membrane achieved 77% water recovery, a performance comparable to that of new forward osmosis membranes. This suggests that the membrane fouling was reversible. The forward osmosis system developed in this project provides a novel and energy efficient strategy to remediate the tailings waters generated by oil sands bitumen extraction and processing.

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    Attribution 3.0 International