Think Twice learned that a specialist group of ultrasonic experts based in Russia had joined with an English Engineering start up and formed a new joint venture Amongst several other industrial soil remedial projects they have started to design a method for cleaning oil Sands by integrating a range of individual and established process technologies, which includes a series of high power ultrasonic treatment chambers. The development team of has carried out some very successful tests in their Russia laboratories on a few kilos of TAR sands to prove the concept of dislodging the bitumen from the sand grains.
The group has many years experience in the field of ultrasound and for example have recently contracted a multi-million dollar contract with to clean wastewater. In addition they have completed a 40 Tonnes per hour separation plant in the UK to clean steel mill slag.
This is a proposal to participate in the development of a process that includes novel hydro-transportation systems for solid fluidisation, an ultrasonic chamber to enable the releasing of the oil from the grain, prior to subjecting the slurry to a bank of hydro-cyclones. This has the potential to improve oil recovery in a very cost efficient way.
In addition a new process for cleaning waste oil based on a patented combination of chemical and mechanical method has been identified.Cooperation to market this product with a recent start-up company and TT has been established
The proposed ultrasonic vibrator emits sound waves in the frequency band from 23 to 27 kHz. The expanding high frequency sound waves create high and low pressure areas in the surrounding fluid as the wave propagates Strong cavitation and small vacuum bubbles are formed in the low-pressure areas of the passing sound waves. These small air bubbles are moved with force away from the source and will be able to clean objects. The bubbles grow to a critical size and implode violently creating a short (microsecond) very localised (100 microns) temperature explosion (5000 degrees). This in turn create an unusual environment for chemical reactions.
It is the combination of these effects that makes ultra sonic treatment a good candidate to consider too enable sand/bitumen separation.
- Solid: changes in fine structure
- Liquid: cavitation
- Liquidsolid interface: radiation pressure, microstreaming. Shock stresses at solid interface.
Magnetostrictive transducers made are operated at 2 to 4 kW at a frequency of 25 kHz, and have been produced by the Russia based group for many years.
The U.K. company SPT has supplied in excess of 70 ultrasonic tubular systems over a 6 7 year period, all of which have been used in the offshore environment, and mainly for drill cuttings slurrification.
The TAR sands have to be presented to the ultrasonic chamber in a continuous flow and this is achieved by a novel fluidising system. The basis of the concept is to create a tornado type swirling fluid vortex that draws the solids into the discharge tube. The fluidised slurry remains remarkably steady throughout the discharge cycle, which is important when feeding the ultrasonic processor and the subsequent hydrocyclone(s).
The presently used system originates from Russian invention to fluidise and uplift solids from the sea bed and has subsequently been further developed and patented for oil & gas exploration industries by a U.K. based group.
A 10 Tonne per hour hot mill sludge cleaning pilot plant, proving the processing concept, has successfully been tested mid 2002. A 40 tonnes per hour plant has subsequently been delivered to a Hot Mill Company 1st quarter 2003.
The package which is offered of a slurry transportation device combined with ultrasonic processors, and hydro-cyclones is a unique concept designed for the specific application to enhance separating bitumen from sand grains through acoustic stimulation. It is a distinctly different approach from the more common heat/mechanical enhanced separation systems.
If this or an adopted version will provide a lower processing unit cost and/or add efficiency towards cleaning of TAR sands the upside could be Substantial. The environmental impact of the produced solids may well prove to be more manageable .In addition the used fluid is recycled. It could be a substantial opportunity to develop a sustainable business.
Other opportunities such as adapted processes for cleaning waste oil have been identified which will enable environmental cleanup of waste oil and/or water.