We have developed a waterless technology using ionic liquids (ILs, salts that are liquid at temperatures below 100 °C) for complete hydrocarbon recovery at ambient temperature. Such technology has been shown to efficiently mobilize bitumen from oil sands, kerogen from oil shales, and tight oil. This technology does not create greenhouse gas emissions like current extraction practices and, in the case of bitumen extraction, can be tuned to ore quality, enabling production from a wide range of ores with essentially the same process.
The design of the ionic liquid results in alternatives for the separation of bitumen and hence options for the design of the process. While still at its initial steps, this approach shows significant promise as an attractive method to continue to derive economic benefit from Alberta’s oil sands without negatively impacting water resources. A start-up company has licensed the technology and is currently working on the scale up process.
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