Dark Laser Detects Nano Particles of Oil in Water

NAIT’s Nanotechnology Centre for Applied Research, Industry Training and Services (NanoCARTS) was established in 2012 with a Technology Access Centre grant from the Natural Science Engineering Research Council of Canada. The centre provides nanotechnology and microtechnology support to small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the areas of prototyping, product development and enhancement, testing, as well as characterization and training.

One of the projects within nanoCARTS involves a collaborative effort between NAIT, Alberta Nano-Monitoring Systems (ANMS), Benchmark Instrumentation and Analytical Services and a major Alberta oil sands company. The project is focused on the development of a unique structured “dark” laser beam, based on IPSA® which stands for Individual Particle Sensing Approach, developed by ANMS. This approach enables automatic, continuous, on-line monitoring of particle sizes (including nano-particles) and concentrations, in liquids, air or vacuum.

A field trial of this new technology’s application for detecting oil particles in a steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) process occurred in December 2014. The system developed by ANMS and NAIT successfully detected emulsified oil in produced water while ignoring the background hydrocarbon solution, addressing the current challenge with conventional analytical and monitoring equipment.

The intent of the field trial was to analyze the oil content in produced water samples collected from different treatment stages (warm-lime softener (WLS), organic removal filter (ORF) and skim tank outlet) in the SAGD process.  The new system measurements were compared to a conventional method that provides the oil in water analysis at the facility by means of solvent extraction and fluorescence.

“Preliminary results from the field trial demonstrated excellent correlation between the number of droplets counted and the concentration measured. We continue to be very optimistic about the exploitation of this technology for solving difficult measurement challenges that are important to Alberta, as well as Canada. We look forward to an ongoing mutually beneficial relationship between the organizations and to seeing NAIT establish themselves as a partner in the technology development arena in Alberta.” Steven McDougall, M.E.Sc., P.Eng., Vice President, Operations of Benchmark Instrumentation and Analytical Services Inc.

Industry: Environmental
Funded by: Technology Access Centre (TAC) Grant

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