A Calgary-based company says it has shipped 130 barrels of tar sands/oil sands bitumen from Edmonton to Prince Rupert, British Columbia in semi-solid form, in a first test of a new technology it says would provide a safe alternative to shipping by pipeline or rail.
“We have now proven that we can ship bitumen to international markets safely and efficiently,” said Cal Broder, the developer behind the BitCrude process, in a release.
The approach “uses an electrically-powered diluent recovery unit to remove lighter petrochemicals, thus producing a product that’s non-flammable for transportation purposes, floats in both fresh and saltwater in custom containers, and is non-toxic to marine life,” The Canadian Press reports. Now, Calgary-based Melius Energy “is working to line up Asian refinery customers who can use Canadian bitumen for products such as asphalt and diesel, while also signing producers of bitumen to long-term supply agreements.”
Melius “is not the first company to propose moving bitumen through B.C. in a semi-solid form by train, but it appears to be the first to actually land a potential customer in China and start shipping,” Business in Vancouver adds, with the first batch now on its way overseas and a new demonstration plant under construction in Edmonton. “Using existing rail infrastructure, Melius says it could potentially move 120,000 barrels per day of pure bitumen in 100-unit trains through the Port of Prince Rupert.”
The company “says the product meets regulatory requirements of the recently-passed federal oil tanker ban in northern B.C. and can be exported from Prince Rupert,” CP adds. Melius is presumably making no claims about the greenhouse gas emissions its exports will trigger once the product reaches its intended market.