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Pure Appl. Chem., Vol. 71, No. 1, pp. 193-201, 1999


Orimulsion Containment and Recovery

Matthew Sommerville
Briggs Marine Environmental Services, Leading Light Building
142 Sinclair Road, Torry, Aberdeen, Scotland, A811 9PR, UK

Introduction: Orimulsion is a fuel consisting of natural bitumen dispersed in fresh water (26% to 30%) which is stabilised (as a bitumen-in-water emulsion) by the addition of a small quantity of surfactant. The process of creating Orimulsion turns semi-solid bitumen with a viscosity of 10,000 mPas into a mixture with a viscosity of 450 mPas. The composition of Orimulsion makes it, at first consideration, seem an unlikely fuel. The combination of modern emission control, independence from the fluctuations in world crude oil prices and proven reserves of 1.27 trillion barrels (Middle East crude reserves are estimated at only 267 billion barrels) make this a significant energy source for the future. The typical composition of Orimulsion is given in Table 1.

Orimulsion is clearly destined for increased consumption around the world and, with this, will inevitably come an increased risk of spillage and a requirement for appropriate spill control technologies. However, unlike conventional crude or fuel oils, we have no past spills or documented experiences to exploit. The development of containment and recovery systems must therefore rely on limited examinations of the product, and its fate and behaviour.

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