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4 Methods of More Sustainable Tar Sand Technology

1. University of Alberta – Solar Energy Technology
U of A oil sands technology
source: A civil engineering graduate student simulates the solar UV/chlorine treatment process.
Researchers from the University of Alberta have produced a solar-powered technology to extract 75 to 84% of dangerous contaminants from oil sands tailings. Oil sands tailings (liquid toxic leftovers from oil extraction) currently take about 20 years to reclaim. However with this new sustainable oil sand technology, decontamination and detoxification could be immediate.
University of Alberta’s technology uses solar UV and a chlorine solution to destroy organic contaminants in oil sands process affected water. The chlorine solution reacts with sunlight to produce a powerful oxidising radical that effectively wipes out remaining toxins. The leftover chlorine then vanishes as it rapidly decomposes in the sun.
2. Siemens – Magnetic Field Technology
Siemens Oil Sands Technology
source: A researchers from Siemens Corporate Technology is seen working on a new environmentally friendly process for extracting bitumen from oil sands.
Siemens has developed sustainable tar sand technology using steam and a magnetic field produced by a thick copper cable that is inserted into the ground. The field creates eddy currents in the conductive sand, which slowly heat up the mineralized water around the oil sand grains. Droplets of bitumen are then released from the grains and flow into a drainage line.
The process would require only half as much water as regular non-magnetic steam technology to produce one barrel of bitumen, and it would produce 20% more material. Les Little of Alberta Innovates, a government body that has worked with Siemens on the project, hopes it will be tested in the province within a few years.
3. Suncor – Microwaving bitumen
Suncor started testing melting bitumen with microwaves in Alberta this year. The interesting oil sand technology involves inserting a microwave-transmitting antenna into a horizontal borehole with the circumference of an arm but the length of a football pitch.
The idea is similar to that of a microwave to heat food. Just as a microwave only heats food and not the container outside of it, this technology will heat the oil and not the sand and rock. This could potentially reduce energy costs by 80%.
4. Imperial Oil – LASER technology
Imperial oil has taken steam technology to the next level by adding solvents to its steam. The steam and light hydrocarbon solvent combination is injected into the ground to help recover heavy oil. The solvent allows more resource to be recovered with the same amount of steam.

TNphoto Tatsuya Nakagawa
Tatsuya Nakagawa is the VP of Marketing and co-founder of Castagra Products, a storage tank and wastewater coatings manufacturing company that is highly acclaimed for its sustainable coatings, cold weather tank and secondary containment coating applications, and its durable frac tank coatings. Castagra is used by the world’s top oil and gas field services companies.