Can Liquid Salt Make The Tar Sands Easier To Swallow?

Researchers at Penn State University have developed a method of separating oil from tar sands that could reduce the environmental impact of the industry.

Tar sands, also known as bituminous sands or oil sands, are one of the most energy intensive and polluting sources of energy in the world.

Extracting the oil requires the storage of contaminated wastewater from the separation process in large open air ponds where it can seep into groundwater and pollute lakes and rivers. In addition, the large amounts of water needed can deplete local fresh water resources.

The U.S. imports more than 1 million barrels of oil per day from Canada, about twice as much as from Saudi Arabia.

A research group at Penn State spent the past 18 months developing a technique that uses ionic liquids (salt in a liquid state) to facilitate separation of oil from the sands in a cleaner, more energy efficient manner. The separation takes place at room temperature without the generation of waste water.

“Essentially, all of the bitumen is recovered in a very clean form, without any contamination from the ionic liquids,” explained Paul Painter, the project’s lead polymer scientist. “Because the bitumen, solvents and sand/clay mixture separate into three distinct phases, each can be removed separately and the solvent can be reused.”

The process can also be used to extract oil and tar from beach sand after oil spills, such as the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon incidents. Unlike other methods of cleanup, the Penn State process completely removes the hydrocarbons, and the cleaned sand can be returned to the beach instead of being sent to landfills.

Related Reading:

BP Shows Renewed Interest In Canadian Tar Sands

Watch Out For Tar Sands: An Even Bigger Enviro Disaster Is Looming

State Department Witholds Information On Tar Sands Oil Pipeline

Image Credit: Penn State

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Duane B.
.2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jerry t.
Jerold t.4 years ago

Very nice, if we don't mind ignoring the damage done from the extraction process. This oil has to be burned, cough, cough.
You know, they put filters on cigarettes so we don't have to breath this crap.

Eileen Novak
Eileen Novak4 years ago

Bad idea!

Joseph Armstrong
Joseph Armstrong4 years ago

We need to realize that for the time being we need oil to power our world as we transition to more environmentally friendly systems to generate power. Going back to the dark ages is NOT a solution and rampant development of energy isn't either. We need to reduce the rhetoric and work together to reach productive and reasonable solutions to both our development issues and environmental problems. Killing off jobs won't help but killing off the planet won't either.

gerlinde p.
gerlinde p.4 years ago

interesting, but howabout getting away from oil completely.

Lin Penrose
Lin Penrose4 years ago

Thanks Beth. Potentially Very good news. However, I agree with Dave C. & tried to send him a Green Star. We humans must reduce our reliance on oil greatly. The environmental impacts from all the ways we get it are awful.

Bernadette P.
Berny p.4 years ago

Lets keep finguers crossed !!!

Doug D.
Doug D.4 years ago

Sounds promising--at least for cleaning our beaches.

Brian M.
Past Member 4 years ago

The development of the tar sands into fuel is one of the worst things to ever happen to life on this planet. Not only will the process of fuel-production create pollution, it will also be the most costly fuel ever produced. Worse still, it will be less clean than the fuel we're already using. The answer is NOT more fuel. The answer is REDUCE CONSUMPTION. Sell your cars and buy bicycles or learn how to use your community's public transportation. Unless, of course, you don't care whether your great grandchildren inherit a healthy planet or a living hell.

Thomas L Robinson

This is great news. I hope the process is tested and reported upon in the coming months.