February 2011


Designing atmospheric crude distillation for bitumen service

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

Grande, M., Gutscher, M., Fluor Canada Ltd.

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

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