Advanced Membrane-Based Hybrid Process for Oil Spill Removal in Marine Environments

Lead Proponent: University of Alberta
Location: Edmonton, AB
OSRS Contribution:  $ 600,000
Project Total:  $ 1.65 M
Strategic Area:  Oil Spill Response Science

Project Objective:

An oil spill can cause some irreparable damages to a marine environment. There are many methods of cleaning-up oil spills such as using chemical dispersant, in-situ burning, using sorbents, etc. which are not particularly suitable for a marine environment. The best response for heavy oil spills in the marine environment is to physically collect them from the sea using oil spill recovery vessels.  The biggest challenge in this is that the collected mixture includes large amounts of water, which lowers the quantity that can be picked up by the recovery vessel.

The objective of this project is to develop an on-board membrane based hybrid oil/water separation system to significantly increase the capacity of the recovery vessel, thereby reducing the cost and spill response time for cleanup.  The technology can be directly and easily incorporated into existing rapid deployment spill clean-up systems mounted on ships or barges. It would be ready to commercialize for manufacturers of existing oil spill clean-up tankers, making the research easy to implement for large or small scale spills and for potential use in future high risk areas of development.

Expected Outcomes:

The expectation from this project will be to provide scientific and technological innovations in the field of membrane materials and processes for effective removal of oil spills from marine environments.  The project will develop more suitable membranes/adsorbents in terms of performance and cost for current processes.  It is expected that the resultant improved materials will create a direct path to rapid commercialization.

The short-term outcome will be to install the technology on-board spill cleaning ships as well as in any other oil-related contamination processing facility.

The midterm outcome will be to apply the results of the research program for oily waste water treatment in current oil sands practice, particularly steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). The results can be interpreted and the new membranes from the research program can be tried in a common pressure-driven microfiltration (MF) process.

The long term outcome would be full commercialization of the new technique in an oil spill cleaning system or any other oil contamination cleaning process. The MF process can be coupled with other techniques, such as centrifugation, at the commercial scale to provide higher quality water.