Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering, Vol.82, No.4, 752-762, 2004
A new device to determine bitumen extraction from oil sands
The Batch Extraction Unit (BEU) has been in use since the 1970's for studying the extraction of bitumen from oil sand. The present study investigates an alternative method for estimating bitumen recovery, based on visualization of oil sand slurry undergoing digestion. A Couette flow device is loaded with known amounts of oil sand and water. Air is bubbled through the oil sand slurry, while it is subjected to controlled chemical conditions and shear environment. Images of the slurry are captured at various time intervals and then analyzed using image analysis software, which selects black areas based on the gray scale intensities of the area in view. The variation of the black area with time is used as a measure of bitumen recovery. The technique provides quick estimates of final recovery, while enabling kinetic studies of the liberation and recovery processes. The experimental set-up offers great flexibility in selecting conditions for the digestion of oil sands.