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Georgia professor’s technology could be a game-changer for oil sands

Anchorage, Alaska-May 4, 2010-Instead of using water, spin those oil sands. That's the headline of the latest article posted on Greening of Oil's website. The technology it reports on, designed by a physics professor in Georgia, has the potential of being a game-changer for Alberta's oil sands.

Reducing water use in the bitumen extraction project has been the subject of numerous research projects. Solvents are an option, but so far none are working well on all fronts -recoverability of the bitumen, cost and environmental impact.

Ben de Mayo, Ph.D., of the University of West Georgia, came up with an idea from his work at a potato chip company in the 1960s, where he devised a way to make low fat potato chips.

First, he heated the chips to make the oil in them less viscous. Then he spun them to remove the excess grease. In the case of oil sands samples from Alberta, he dumped the sand into a container that heats and spins it. Just like the potato chips, the heat made the bitumen less viscous and the spinning extracted it from the sand.

In laboratory testing, de Mayo said these two steps removed up to 85 percent of the bitumen from an oil sands sample in 15 minutes, while using 25 percent of the energy usually needed for separation.

He believes his method is better because there is no water to recycle, no toxic solvents and no underground fires. And because it's an entirely mechanical process with only one moving piece, he thinks it's cheaper, too.

Read more at www.greeningofoil.com.

About Greening of Oil: 
A science-based, international publication that tracks the environmental footprint of fossil fuels, Greening of Oil scrutinizes what is being done to make hydrocarbons more earth-friendly during what is expected to be a decades-long shift to cleaner and cleaner power. Written by experienced journalists, the magazine contains no editorials. It is a fact-based resource for people who care about the environmental performance of energy companies.

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