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GE motors to drive compressors for new Sturgeon bitumen refinery in Alberta; bitumen to diesel with carbon capture

GE’s Power Conversion business will supply Series 9000-RCM large electric motors to drive the reciprocating compressors for a new bitumen refinery under construction in Alberta, Canada, under a $14-million contract that includes related services.

Reciprocating compressors, which offer extremely high compression ratios, are used to handle hydrogen, which is used to upgrade the bitumen. GE’s Series 9000-RCM motors are built to drive reciprocating compressors in the petrochemical industry, with ratings up to 13.8 kV and up to 22,000 hp (16,000 kW).

The new Sturgeon Refinery is being built by North West Redwater Partnership (NWR), a partnership between North West Upgrading Inc. (NWU) and Canadian Natural Upgrading Limited (CNUL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian Natural Resources Limited (Canadian Natural). The 150,000 barrels-per-day bitumen refinery will be the first to incorporate an integrated CO2 management system—the facility will capture 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 per year per phase, which will be sold for use in enhanced oil recovery before being sequestered.

Nearly half of the output from the refinery will be high-cetane, ultra-low sulfur diesel; other products include diluent, naphtha, low sulfur vacuum gas oil, light ends (butane, propane and ethane), liquid sulfur and carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery. The project will not produce coke.

This project will demonstrate that Alberta has the lowest carbon footprint solutions for converting bitumen into diesel fuel. This is the first refinery in the world that incorporates CO2 capture into the initial design.

—Ian MacGregor, Founder and Chairman of NWU

NWR has thirty-year processing agreements for 100% of its Phase 1 bitumen feedstock capacity. The Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission, an agent of the Province of Alberta, will supply 75% of the feedstock volume and Canadian Natural will supply the balance of the feedstock volume. Each party will own their proportionate share of the products produced by the Sturgeon Refinery and sold into the market.

In November 2012, the Board of Directors for each partner approved the construction of the first phase of three of the Sturgeon Refinery. The first 50,000 barrels per day phase of the bitumen refinery has a cost estimate of $5.7 billion and is expected to take approximately three years to build, with above ground construction starting in spring 2013.

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