Journal of hazardous materials

Forward osmosis as an approach to manage oil sands tailings water and on-site basal depressurization water.

PMID 28033494


As the volume of oil sands process-affected water (OSPW) stored in tailings ponds increases, it is urgent to seek for water management approaches to alleviate the environmental impact caused by large quantity of toxic water. Forward osmosis (FO) utilizes osmotic pressure difference between two solutions, thereby giving a potential to manage two wastewaters. In this study, FO was proposed to manage OSPW, using on-site waste basal depressurization water (BDW) as draw solution. To investigate its feasibility, both short and long-term OSPW desalination experiments were carried out. By applying this process, the volume of OSPW was decreased>40% and high rejections were achieved, especially, the major organic toxicity source - naphthenic acids (NAs). Although comparative low water flux (≤3L/m(2)h) was obtained, water flux caused by membrane fouling can be completely recovered using water physical cleaning. Moreover, calcium carbonate precipitation was observed on the OSPW-oriented membrane side. With respect to flux decline, the active layer facing the feed solution (FO mode) and active layer facing draw solution (PRO mode) did not demonstrate a significant difference on anti-fouling performance. The advantages provided by this approach include zero draw solution cost, less reversible membrane fouling and beneficial reuse/recycle of diluted BDW.