Canadian Mining Journal


OIL SANDS: Sherritt completes pilot tests of diluent-free bitumen upgrading

Sherritt is testing a diluent-free method of thinning bitumen at its Fort Saskatchewan facilities. (Image: Sherritt International)

ALBERTA – Toronto-based Sherritt International says its Alberta-based technologies division in Fort Saskatchewan has completed a successful pilot scale run of a proprietary process to upgrade bitumen. The process could eliminate the need to add diluent , a costly thinning agent that reduces bitumen viscosity. Pipeline capacity is also improved when transporting thinner oil.

The pilot tests were Sherritt’s first step in commercializing the process. The company hope to build a larger demonstration plant.

The diluent-free method stems from earlier work with coal liquefaction. The process uses a mechanically agitated reactor to combine hydrogen with bitumen under pressure at high temperature in the presence of a proprietary catalyst. The method has applications for both Alberta oils sands producers and for the heavy oil that Sherritt produces in Cuba.

Sherritt first tested the process on Cuban heavy oil in 2015. In recent tests, the company upgraded bitumen with a 10American Petroleum Institute (API) gravity to a lighter 24O API gravity product with no loss of liquid. When blended with raw bitumen, the upgraded bitumen product met pipeline transportation specifications and had lower sulphur, naphthenic acid, heavy metals and micro-carbon residue than the Alberta benchmark diluted bitumen blend, Western Canadian Select.

Testing continues. Please see

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