Wetting phenomena in oil sand systems and their impact on the water-based bitumen extraction process

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Department of Materials Science and Engineering


The highly efficient and economically feasible technology for bitumen recovery from U.S. oil sands using a water-extraction approach was developed at the end of the last century. This water-based bitumen extraction process has been optimized based on observations and analysis of microscopic mechanisms of bitumen release from oil sands and the bitumen transfer to a froth product as well as measurements of interfacial properties of bitumen. The wetting mechanisms that occur in the diluent-assisted water-based processing of U.S. oil sands include bitumen film rupture and recession on sand grains and bitumen transfer to nucleated and injected gas bubbles. These mechanisms are reviewed in this contribution.

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Minerals and Metallurgical Processing