Potential of capillary electrophoresis mass spectrometry for the characterization and monitoring of amine-derivatized naphthenic acids from oil sands process-affected water

Matthew S. MacLennan, Cai Tie, Kevin Kovalchik, Kerry M. Peru, Xinxiang Zhang, John V. Headley, David D.Y. Chen
  • Journal of Environmental Sciences, November 2016, Elsevier
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.jes.2016.06.019

An affordable, environmentally-friendly method of measuring toxic acids in oil sands tailings ponds

What is it about?

The Alberta oil sands industry creates large volumes of water that are held in dyke systems called tailings ponds. One important type of contaminant in the water is called naphthenic acids. We have developed a method of extracting, separating and analyzing naphthenic acids in tailings pond water that uses environmentally friendly solvents and results in about 1 microlitre of waste.

Why is it important?

Naphthenic acids and oil sands process water are known to be extremely difficult to analyze. Our paper is one of the first works describing how to separate naphthenic acids using high voltage electroseparation (CE). Our technique uses nanolitres of solvents which means it is green and has the low impact on the environment and high potential for scaling up.


Mr Matthew Simon MacLennan
University of British Columbia

I must have performed the derivatization experiments and analyses at least three times just to make sure it worked! It certainly works. I also performed a multi-component optimization to find the best experimental conditions to produce the best separation of derivatized naphthenic acids. I wrote all my own codes using R statistical software in order to generate images, with codes available on GitHub. I am very proud of this work.

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The following have contributed to this page: Mr Matthew Simon MacLennan