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Greener oilsands

Hydrocarbon Engineering,


In the quest to develop more cost-effective ways to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels, GE is partnering with the University of Alberta (UA) and Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (AITF) on a US$ 4 million CO2 capture project supported by the Climate Change and Emissions Management (CCEMC) Corporation.

This team is leveraging cutting-edge research in nanotechnology to tackle two of the most pressing environmental challenges facing the oilsands; reduction of CO2 emissions associated with the extraction and upgrading process, and treatment of produced water generated during the oil recovery.

The technology is based on naturally occurring zeolites identified by UA. These materials are rocks with molecularly sized pores, which allow small molecules to enter while excluding larger molecules. Zeolites are widely used in the chemical industry as catalysts, and this project seeks to form these materials into membranes that can be used for high temperature gas separation. The materials also have the potential to be used as filters for contaminated water. The CCEMC is providing US$ 2 million in support of this project, with an equal cost share from GE and its project partners.

Anthony Ku, a chemical engineer and project leader for GE Global Research on the CO2 capture project, said, “This project is a great example of how partnership between academic research organisations and industry can lead to meaningful innovation. We’re excited to be working with the CCEMC and some of Alberta’s best and brightest research minds to take an interesting material identified in a university lab and figure out how to build a prototype that will be tested in the field.”

According to Ku, if this technology is successfully commercialised and adopted throughout the oilsands industry it could potentially save up to 25% of carbon emissions produced during production.

If they can successfully bring this project to a stage where it is commercially viable and implementable it would bring no end of benefits to the oilsands production industry. Oilsands has received a very bad press as it is alleged that the waste water left over from production could potentially be polluting groundwater, and the process also produces three times more CO2 than conventional oil production. Such is the furore surrounding this industry that some US senators are attempting to delay the construction of a pipeline that is to bring oilsands to Houston for processing.

Read the article online at: https://www.hydrocarbonengineering.com/gas-processing/01072010/greener_oilsands/


 

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