Desalination of oil sands process-affected water and basal depressurization water in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada: application of electrodialysis

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The high content of inorganic species in water used to extract bitumen from the Alberta oil sands and in the groundwater below the oil sands is an increasing environmental concern. These water matrices require treatment before they can be reused or safely discharged. Desalination of the oil sands process-affected water (OSPW) and groundwater, or basal depressurization water (BDW), can be accomplished with deionization techniques such as electrodialysis (ED). In order to achieve the effective ED treatment, OSPW and BDW were pretreated with coagulation–flocculation–sedimentation to remove solid species and turbidity. We demonstrated that a conductivity range for industrial reuse of OSPW and BDW can be achieved with the ED treatment and showed the possibility of applying ED in the oil sands industry. A continuous ED system that reuses the diluate stream as a source for the concentrate stream was designed. The cost of a hypothetical ED water treatment plant in Fort McMurray, Alberta, was estimated to be C$10.71 per cubic meter of treated water.

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