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Environmentally safe oil-sands extraction

By Scott Jenkins |

Processing oil sands is a mechanically intense process that involves pumping steam underground to emulsify crude petroleum. The procedure presents what MCW Energy Group (Toronto, Ont.; www.mcwenergygroup.com) CEO and former Exxon executive Jerry Bailey calls an “environmental nightmare.” Among the main problems is the generation of large tailings ponds containing incompletely separated material. A process developed by MCW could be used to remediate tailings, as well as to extract hydrocarbons from oil sands in an environmentally safe manner in areas where the oil sands are close to the surface. Also, the technology uses no water, an advantage over conventional processes, where water consumption has been a problem. The MCW technology is a continuous, solvent-based extraction process that removes 99% of the hydrocarbon content from the oil sands and recycles 99% of the solvent. After a preparatory crushing process, oil-sands ore is delivered via conveyor to MCW’s patented liquid fluidized-bed reactor tower. There, the ore is mixed with a proprietary blend of common hydrophilic and hydrophobic solvents at temperatures of 50–60°C. The extracted hydrocarbons are separated from the solvent mix with a distillation process, and the…
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