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Balls of bitumen: Calgary step forward will build oil pipelines pointless, researcher claims

Balls of bitumen: Calgary step forward will build oil pipelines pointless, researcher claims

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A Calgary engineer thinks an invention he stumbled upon within the laboratory would possibly maybe remodel the capacity Alberta will get its heavy oil to market.

Ian Gates changed into once researching systems to enhance bitumen when he and his team by probability found a capacity to degrade it, making it a ways more viscous — which, in flip, resulted in a discovery that they would perchance envelope the oil in self-sealing pellets, with a liquid core and wide-viscous pores and skin.

These tricky miniature balls of bitumen is ceaselessly a pipeline-free technique of getting Alberta oil to markets cheaply, sustainably and with much less risk of environmental exertion, talked a couple of commence from the College of Calgary’s Schulich College of Engineering, where Gates is a professor.

“We hang taken heavy oil, or bitumen, either one, and now we hang found a process to convert all of them of a sudden and reproducibly into pellets,” Gates told CBC News.

Bitumen balls is ceaselessly a pipeline-free capacity to switch Alberta oil0:30

“With this, we can place it in a mature rail automobile. It’ll scuttle to any port where a rail automobile goes, which is an substantial alternative of them, to derive product out from North America.”

Gates says the pellets would possibly maybe be place within the thousands of rail autos built for coal that for the time being are sitting sluggish.

Gates and his team of researchers hang developed the technology to the level where they’ll build pellets of so a lot of sizes sterling at the wellhead, the use of about the same quantity of energy as it takes to add diluent to the bitumen to liquefy it for shipping through pipelines.

“Mediate Advil,” Gates talked about. “You hang the chemical cloth … we’re then exposing that cloth, on the outdoor, to a residing of heat, stress prerequisites, that then yield a asphaltine-rich coating. So, surely actual a coating that bounds the inner cloth.”

ian gates

Ian Gates at the College of Calgary’s Schulich College of Engineering says his bitumen pellet invention will build it much less expensive and safer to switch Alberta’s energy merchandise by rail. (CBC)

Environmentally protected

The pellets are tricky and can simply additionally be safely transported by rail or truck without tense about spills. Thanks to a gas bubble injected inner each and each pellet, they are also buoyant, Gates says.

“They’re effective and hardy. At the same time as you happen to attach aside them in water, they’ll sit down fancy that for a surely very prolonged time,” Gates talked about.

“It is a actual product for transport.”

The review and the anxiousness to translate it actual into a commercially viable idea changed into once supported by the U of C’s Innovate Calgary, the school’s technology and industry-incubation centre.

“We had been in a space [to] join with doubtless industry companions and prospects who would possibly maybe abet reach the technology to a field trial, and within the ruin, a plump scale solution,” talked about Stace Wills, vice-president of energy at Innovate Calgary.

By November, the certainly computerized technology shall be producing barrels of the runt balls, the school says.

Over the next three hundred and sixty five days we will then scale that up to a several-hundred-barrel per day unit,” Gates talked about.

He says there are several companies attracted to transferring the invention forward.

As soon as the pellets are transported, they would perchance also simply additionally be reconstituted assist to bitumen to be upgraded within the accepted capacity, or they would perchance also simply additionally be feeble of their pellet build.

The balls are also ultimate for boulevard paving, without the must enhance the product any additional, Gates says.

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