[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]
Canada backs demonstration-scale algal biorefinery project in the oil sands; Algal Carbon Conversion
May 19, 2013
The Government of Canada is supporting a three-year project that will result in the construction of a $19-million, demonstration-scale facility in Alberta that will use algae to recycle industrial carbon dioxide emissions from an oil sands facility into commercial products such as biofuels. The Algal Carbon Conversion (ACC) Pilot Project is a partnership among the National Research Council of Canada (NRC); Canadian Natural Resources Limited, one of the largest independent crude oil and natural gas producers in Canada; and Pond Biofuels.
The demonstration-scale algal biorefinery will be established at Canadian Natural’s Primrose South oil sands site, near Bonnyville, Alberta. The demonstration facility will be integrated into the Canadian Natural’s operations with direct access to industrial flue gas emissions, wastewater and waste heat.
Ceramatec licensing molten sodium technology for heavy oil upgrading; removing the need for diluent for bitumen
April 10, 2013
|Flowchart of Molten Sodium Upgrading process. Source: Field Upgrading. Click to enlarge.|
An innovative oil-upgrading technology that can increase the economics of unconventional petroleum resources has been developed under a US Department of Energy-funded project. The technology, developed by Ceramatec and managed by the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), has been licensed to Western Hydrogen of Calgary for upgrading bitumen or heavy oil from Canada. A new company, Field Upgrading (Calgary, Alberta), has been formed dedicated to developing and commercializing the Molten Sodium Upgrading (MSU) technology.
The MSU process involves mixing elemental molten sodium and small quantities of hydrogen or methane to reduce significantly the levels of sulphur, metals, TAN (total acid number) and asphaltenes in heavy oil feedstocks, including oil sands bitumen. MSU also significantly increases the API gravity of the feedstocks while achieving a relatively higher yield compared to conventional upgrading technologies. In the case of oil sands bitumen, the API gravity is increased from 8 API to more than 20 API, eliminating the need for diluent for pipeline transportation.
Major spill from the ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline in Arkansas
March 31, 2013
|Route of the Pegasus pipeline. Source: ExxonMobil. Click to enlarge.|
A breach in ExxonMobil’s Pegasus crude oil pipeline occurred late Friday afternoon near Mayflower, AR (about 20 miles north northwest of Little Rock and at the southwestern end of the Lake Conway reservoir). The pipeline has been shut in and crews are working to contain the spill. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categorizes the incident as a “major spill”—i.e., greater than 250 barrels (10,500 gallons).
ExxonMobil said that it observed a few thousand barrels of oil in the area (approximately 84,000 gallons), but is staging a response for more than 10,000 barrels (420,000 gallons) to be conservative. The cause of the spill is under investigation.
Univ. of Calgary team developing nanocatalysts for underground upgrading of heavy oil and bitumen; possible “next generation” of oil sands production
March 25, 2013
|Total injected hot fluid and total produced liquid for the nanocatalyst experiments at temperatures of 320 and 340 °C. Credit: ACS, Hashemi et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the University of Calgary are developing ultra-dispersed (UD) nanocatalysts for the in situ upgrading of heavy oil and bitumen from deep reservoirs. Such an “underground refinery” approach is one of the alternatives to surface upgrading that may become the next-generation of oil sands industry improvement, they suggest in a paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
One of the challenges of such an approach is the placement of the catalyst deep into the heavy oil plume by transporting a catalyst suspension through the sand medium. In their paper, they report that water-in-vacuum gas oil microemulsions containing trimetallic (W, Ni, and Mo) ultradispersed colloidal nanoparticles could penetrate inside the porous medium and react with the bitumen, resulting in enhanced recovery.
State Department issues Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Keystone XL Pipeline: climate change impacts
March 02, 2013
|Comparison of proposed Keystone XL route to previously proposed project segment. Source: Draft SEIS. Click to enlarge.|
The US Department of State (DOS) has released its Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) in response to TransCanada’s May 2012 application for the Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Canada’s oils sands in Alberta to Nebraska. The document is a detailed draft technical review of potential environmental impacts associated with the segment of the pipeline in the US, including: impacts from construction, impacts from potential spills, impacts related to climate change, and economic impacts.
Aside from the potential construction and spill impacts of the pipeline, the scope of the climate change impacts have become the most contentious and politicized issue surrounding the pipeline. The DOS SEIS accordingly takes a detailed look at life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of petroleum products from Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) oil sands crudes compared with reference crudes and the potential impact the pipeline might have on climate change as well as on the future development of the oils sands resource in Canada.
SDTC awards C$1.5M to support Molten Salt Catalyzed Gasification for hydrogen production; targeting reduced GHG footprint for oil sands synthetic crude
February 16, 2013
|Flowchart of the MSG process. Source: Western Hydrogen. Click to enlarge.|
A consortium led by Canada-based Western Hydrogen Ltd. will receive a $C1.5-million investment from Sustainable Development Technology Canada to support the development and commercialization of a new hydrogen manufacturing technology called Molten Salt Catalyzed Gasification (MSG), originally developed at the US Idaho National Laboratory (INL).
Hydrogen is necessary in the upgrading of oil sands bitumen into synthetic crude, but it is a costly and carbon-intensive part of the process, given current hydrogen production technologies. MSG converts natural gas into hydrogen with a 23% reduction in GHG emissions compared to steam methane reforming.
Researchers propose framework for CCS infrastructure optimization to reduce GHG emissions from oil sands extraction and processing
January 28, 2013
Two researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Stanford University have developed an integrated framework that simultaneously considers economic and engineering decisions for the capture, transport, and storage of oil sands CO2 emissions (CCS). The model, developed by Richard Middleton (LANL) and Adam Brandt (Stanford) optimizes CO2 management infrastructure at a variety of carbon prices for the oil sands industry.
In a paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they report that the oil sands industry lends itself well to development of CO2 trunk lines due to geographic coincidence of sources and sinks. This reduces the relative importance of transport costs compared to nonintegrated transport systems.
New study concludes oil sands development has significantly increased PAH and DBT loadings in regional lakes; combined with effects of climate change, a “new ecological state” for the lakes
January 09, 2013
A new study by a team from Environment Canada and Queen’s University (Canada) has shown that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) within the sediments of lakes in the Athabasca oil sands region in Canada—particularly C1-C4–alkylated PAHs, increased significantly after development of the oil sands resource began some 50 years ago—followed by significant increases in dibenzothiophenes (DBTs).
Total PAH fluxes in the modern sediments of six study lakes, including one site ∼90 km northwest of the major development area, are now ∼2.5–23 times greater than ∼1960 levels. Total DBT enrichments over the same time period ranged between ∼2.6 and 57 times.
New petroleum refining lifecycle model finds the variability in GHG emissions from refining different crudes as significant as magnitude expected in upstream operations
December 09, 2012
|Comparison of GHGenius, JACOBS, TIAX, and the new PRELIM gasoline greenhouse gas (GHG) estimates using base case estimates and variations from the scenario analysis. Credit: ACS, Abella and Bergerson. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the University of Calgary (Canada) have developed the Petroleum Refinery Life-cycle Inventory Model (PRELIM). PRELIM uses a more comprehensive range of crude oil quality and refinery configurations than used in earlier models and can quantify energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with detail and transparency the better to inform policy analysis, the duo suggests.
Using a scenario analysis to explore the implications of processing crudes of different qualities in different refinery configurations, and with a focus on oil sands products, they found differences of up to 14 g CO2eq/MJ of crude, or up to 11 g CO2eq/MJ of gasoline and 19 g CO2eq/MJ of diesel (the margin of deviation in the emissions estimates is roughly 10%). Put another way, “the variability in GHG emissions in the refining stage that results from processing crudes of different qualities is as significant as the magnitude expected in upstream operations”, they found.
IHS CERA meta-analysis finds lifecycle GHG emissions for fuel produced solely from oil sands crude average 11% higher than from average crude refined in the US; high variability
November 15, 2012
|Average values for WTW GHG emissions for oil sands and other crudes, tight boundary. Source: IHS CERA. Click to enlarge.|
When the boundary for measuring GHG emissions is placed around crude production and processing facilities, for fuels produced solely from Canadian oil sands the average well-to-wheels (WTW) life-cycle GHG emissions are 11% higher than for the average crude refined in the United States (results range from 4% to 18% higher), according to a new meta-analysis by energy market consultancy IHS CERA.
When the oil sands products refined in the United States are considered—a mixture of oil sands and lower-carbon blending components—the GHG emissions are, on average, 9% higher than the average crude processed in the US.
Tailings Technology Roadmap project releases nine development roadmaps for treatment of oil sands fine tailings
August 29, 2012
A collaboration of Alberta Innovates – Energy and Environment Solutions (AI-EES) and the Oil Sands Tailing Consortium (OSTC), in partnership with Alberta Energy, Natural Resources Canada, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development and the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board, released the report from The Tailings Technology Roadmap and Action Plan project. (Earlier post.)
The report provides nine different Tailings Technology Deployment (TDD) Roadmaps to accelerate the implementation of oil sands tailings solutions in Alberta. Each roadmap is made up of a suite of technologies that provide options for unique operating leases and mine characteristics. The roadmaps for the tailings technology suites include:
China’s CNOOC to acquire Canada-based Nexen for $15.1B; offshore oil and gas, oil sands, and shale gas
July 23, 2012
CNOOC Limited—China’s largest producer of offshore crude oil and natural gas and one of the largest independent oil and gas exploration and production companies in the world—is acquiring all of the Common Shares of Canada-based energy company Nexen Inc. for US$15.1 billion cash. The price represents a premium of 61% relative to the closing price of the Common Shares on the NYSE on 20 July 2012 and a premium of 66% relative to the volume-weighted average price of the Common Shares over the 20 trading days ending 20 July 2012. Nexen’s current debt of approximately US$4.3 billion will remain outstanding.
Nexen is focused on three core businesses: conventional offshore oil and gas; oil sands; and shale gas:
Oil sands GHG lifecycle study using operating data finds lower emitting oil sands cases outperform higher emitting conventional crude cases; a call for more sophisticated tools and reporting
July 07, 2012
A new well-to-wheel (WTW) lifecycle analysis (LCA) by a team from the University of Calgary and the University of Toronto of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation fuels produced from Canadian oil sands finds that, on a WTW basis, lower emitting oil sands cases can outperform higher emitting conventional crude cases.
The LCA, reported in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, is the first based on confidential operating data from oil sands projects, the authors said. The wide range of potential emissions intensities for both oil sands and conventional crudes suggests that treating all oil sands or all conventional crudes as having the same emissions may lead to unintended consequences, according to the team. In addition, they note, the emissions associated with all of the petroleum sources will continue to change over time (e.g., a transition to heavier conventional oil, technology improvements, deteriorating reservoir conditions as the oil sands resource is further developed).
Harvard Kennedy School researcher forecasts sharp increase in world oil production capacity and risk of price collapse
June 27, 2012
|World oil production capacity to 2020 (crude oil and NGLs, excluding biofuels). Source: Maugeri 2012. Click to enlarge.|
Oil production capacity is surging in the United States and several other countries at such a fast pace that global oil output capacity could grow by nearly 20% from the current 93 million barrels per day to 110.6 mbpd by 2020, according to a new study by a researcher at the Harvard Kennedy School. Such an increase in capacity could prompt a plunge or even a collapse in oil prices, he suggests.
The findings by Leonardo Maugeri, a former senior executive vice president of the oil company Eni, and now a fellow in the Geopolitics of Energy Project in the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, are based on an original field-by-field analysis of the world’s major oil formations and exploration projects.