Outdoor OSPW Treatment Ponds 1 (2016 Project)

H2nanO partners with oil sands producers to demonstrate use of nanotechnology and sunlight to treat process water

The Canadian Oil Sands are integral to the economy, with energy exports representing 3% of GDP and directly or indirectly employing over 500,000 people across the country. Its massive scale means that Canada has the third largest reserves of oil after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, with nearly 200 billion barrels of oil. And yet, with that comes a responsibility to mitigate the affects of oil extraction and the 1 billion tonnes of fluid tailings associated with it. Today, Velocity company H2nanO announced a partnership with the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) and the findings from an exploratory project to demonstrate how their nanotechnology, in combination with sunlight, can be used to more quickly and cost-effectively treat oil sands process water.

H2nanO’s technology, developed at the University of Waterloo, enables passive, solar remediation of persistent organic materials found in water used in surface mining. They have been working with COSIA and five major oil sands companies since the end of last year to assess the viability of its technology to treat oil sands process-affected water. Yesterday at the Oil Sands Innovation Summit in Calgary, they revealed the results of their exploratory project, which demonstrated the treatment on samples of oil sands water and generated treatment results with a faster rate of remediation than other technologies. Natural remediation of process water in oil sands surface mining can take years and toxicity to aquatic species persists over time. H2nanO is commercializing a reusable catalyst nanotechnology that treats water using only sunlight, with no chemicals or filtration required. This aligns with the Canadian Oil Sands operators’ call for passive technology with near-zero inputs to treat persistent organic contaminants.

”COSIA members are enthusiastic about partnering with H2nanO on this demonstration project, and bringing this novel clean resource innovation forward in a major way. Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of oil sands water treatment, means speeding up reclamation and reducing emissions, and we think this technology has great potential for helping us achieving these objectives.“ – Dan Wicklum, COSIA Chief Executive.

The founding team includes a powerhouse of expertise, with Frank Gu (Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology Engineering and Associate Professor at the University of Waterloo), Zac Young (Candidate for Master’s of Chemical Engineering), Tim Leshuk (Doctor in Chemical Engineering), and Stuart Linley (Doctoral Candidate in Chemical Engineering). The project was conducted in Dr. Gu’s lab at Waterloo, using a simulated solar environment and a 200 litre tank of water containing real oil sands process water samples. The project demonstrated treatment on oil sands water and met non-toxic targets with a major rate acceleration by targeting non-biodegrable and toxic compounds. H2nanO, working with natural wetland remediation, could accelerate the process of returning millions of tonnes of stored water back to the environment.