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Designing atmospheric crude distillation for bitumen service

02.01.2011  |  Grande, M.,  Fluor Canada Ltd., Calgary, Alberta, CanadaGutscher, M.,  Fluor Canada Ltd., Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Oil sands add complexity to separation units and require a new approach

Keywords: [oil sands] [bitumen] [synbit] [hydrotreating] [naphtha]

Bitumen blends derived from the Alberta oil sands are becoming a significant feedstock for North American refiners. In 2009, Canada produced about 1.5 million bpd of raw bitumen with about 0.46 million bpd of bitumen blends exported to the US.1,2 This export figure becomes even larger when considering bitumen blends that are commingled with conventional heavy oil and are, therefore, classified as conventional heavy oil, such as Western Canadian Select (WCS). The steep production decline from Mexico’s Cantarell field and Venezuela’s recent shift toward non-US markets, such as China, could make securing supplies from Canada more attractive.3 Many US refineries in the Gulf Coast area are already configured to process heavy oil and a pipeline network is already established to transport oil sands production to refineries located within Canada as well as in the US West, Midwest and Gulf Coast areas.1 Additional pipeline capacity has been recently completed to the US Midwest with additional proposals for other areas, including the Gulf Coast, indicating that more refiners will have access to feedstocks containing bitumen.

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