Effects of different pretreatments on the performance of ceramic ultrafiltration membrane during the treatment of oil sands tailings pond recycle water: A pilot-scale study

Kavithaa Loganathan, Pamela Chelme-Ayala, Mohamed Gamal El-Din

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


Membrane filtration is an effective treatment method for oil sands tailings pond recycle water (RCW); however, membrane fouling and rapid decrease in permeate flux caused by colloids, organic matter, and bitumen residues present in the RCW hinder its successful application. This pilot-scale study investigated the impact of different pretreatment steps on the performance of a ceramic ultrafiltration (CUF) membrane used for the treatment of RCW. Two treatment trains were examined: treatment train 1 consisted of coagulant followed by a CUF system, while treatment train 2 included softening (Multiflo™ system) and coagulant addition, followed by a CUF system. The results indicated that minimum pretreatment (train 1) was required for almost complete solids removal. The addition of a softening step (train 2) provided an additional barrier to membrane fouling by reducing hardness-causing ions to negligible levels. More than 99% removal of turbidity and less than 20% removal of total organic carbon were achieved regardless of the treatment train used. Permeate fluxes normalized at 20°C of 127-130L/m2h and 111-118L/m2h, with permeate recoveries of 90-93% and 90-94% were observed for the treatment trains 1 and 2, respectively. It was also found that materials deposited onto the membrane surface had an impact on trans-membrane pressure and influenced the required frequencies of chemically enhanced backwashes (CEBs) and clean-in-place (CIP) procedures. The CIP performed was successful in removing fouling and scaling materials such that the CUF performance was restored to baseline levels. The results also demonstrated that due to their low turbidity and silt density index values, permeates produced in this pilot study were suitable for further treatment by high pressure membrane processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)540-549
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes



  • Ceramic membrane
  • Oil sands
  • Pretreatment
  • Recycle water
  • Ultrafiltration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Medicine(all)

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