Canadian researchers discover inexpensive oil sands wastewater cleaning process
University of Waterloo technique combines nano-particles and sunlight to remove naphthenic acid from tailing ponds.
“With about a billion tonnes of water stored in ponds in Alberta, removing naphthenic acids is one of the largest environmental challenges in Canada,” said Tim Leshuk, a PhD candidate in chemical engineering at Waterloo and lead author of a paper recently published in the journal Chemosphere. “Conventional treatments people have tried either haven’t worked or if they have worked they’ve been far too impractical or expensive to solve the size of the problem. Waterloo’s technology is the first step of what looks like a very practical and green treatment method.”
Unlike chlorine or membrane filtering, the Waterloo technology uses nanoparticles that, when exposed to sunlight, break down pollutants to their individual atoms. After treatment, the nanoparticles can be recovered and reused repeatedly.
The next step for the Waterloo team will include seeing if the treated water meets Canadian environmental legislation and regulations required to ensure it can be safely discharged from sources larger than the samples, such as tailing ponds.