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Researchers Find Alternative Way to Clean Oil Sands Wastewater

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Lead paper author and PhD candidate Tim Leshuk.
Lead paper author and PhD candidate Tim Leshuk.

Contaminants in wastewater left after drilling in Canadian oil sands can remain in the environment for years. It is an environmental pollutant and can also be harmful to human health.

However, researchers at the University of Waterloo have come up with an alternative way to clean water left after drilling operations, and it is both less expensive and much more environmentally-friendly than any method used today.

The major contaminant found in oil sands wastewater, known as naphthenic acid, was removed in just a few hours using nanoparticles and solar energy. The nanoparticles are incredibly reactive to sunlight, and the chemical process that results breaks down naphthenic acid.

The nanoparticles can then be recovered and reused, making the process of cleaning this wastewater incredibly efficient and cost-effective.

Lead author of the paper Tim Leshuk explains, “Conventional treatments…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”.

Next, the team will examine whether the treated water complies with Canada’s environmental standards. If it does, the treated water can be safely released back into the world.

Image (c) Light Imaging Ltd.

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