Two sets of adsorbents were prepared from locally available raw materials, characterized and tested. The first set consists of crushed natural attapulgite and crushed attapulgite mixed with petroleum tank-bottom sludge and carbonized at 650 °C. Another set was prepared using trunk of date palm tree (Phoenix dactylifera) activated at 700 and 800°C. Both sets were characterized using BET surface area and pore distributions, FTIR, XRD, SEM and TEM. Natural attapulgite and attapulgite/sludge composite exhibited different characteristics and adsorptive capacities for oil removal from oily water. Adsorptive capacities were calculated from the breakthrough curves of a column test. An oily water solution of about 500 mg-oil/L was passed through both the attapulgite and attapulgite/sludge columns until the column effluent concentration exceeded a reference limit of 10 mg-oil/L. Uptake was calculated at this limit at 155 and 405 mg-oil/g-adsorbent, respectively. This was lower than the performance of a commercial activated carbon sample (uptake calculated at 730 mg-oil/g-adsorbent). Relatively, the date palm, carbonaceous-based adsorbent samples showed less significant differences in both bulk and surface properties. Uptake significantly improved to 1330-1425 mg-oil/g-adsorbent. Attempt was made to associate this performance with the difference in the surface areas between the two sets. However, other factors are found to be important as the second set has a range of surface area less than that of the commercial sample. As evidenced by FTIR, XRD and TEM, the activated carbonaceous materials developed porous structures which form defective graphitic sheet ensembles that serve as additional adsorption sites in the sample.
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