A land-locked Industrial Heartland-based facility is hoping to help clean the world’s oceans.
Following a successful one-year pilot project, Field Upgrading is about to embark on its CleanSeas demonstration project-which will see the creation of a value-added, low-sulphur marine fuel.
Launched in 2015, the $35-million pilot project produced 10 barrels of marine fuel per day, and the $100-million demo project will ramp up to a capacity of 2,500 barrels per day.
The pilot technology received support from both the provincial and federal governments to the tune of $14 million, coming from the Sustainable Development Technology Canada Fund, and Emissions Reduction Alberta funding.
The financial viability of the project will be reviewed during the first quarter of 2017 and, following a regulatory process, construction will begin on the demonstration project in 2019 in order to have the plant fully operational by 2020.
“If that all goes well, we’ll do this as a scalable process; 2,500 barrels a day is a good building block, and a typical plant size would be 10,000 barrels per day and we would just replicate that, and that’s how we would roll out this technology globally,” explained Lisa Doig, head of commercialization with Field Upgrading.
“We would have these 10,000-barrels-per-day modules; you could replicate them, (as) engineering and fabrication is fast.
“Fabrication could be done in the Heartland, and we can roll that out and sell it globally.
“It’s an opportunity to use a made-in-Alberta technology, using Alberta feedstock, and make a value-added product to fix a global shipping issue.”
The exact location of the 15-acre demonstration facility will be announced in the coming months, but the company has confirmed its operations will remain somewhere in the Industrial Heartland.
The project is expected to generate between 200 and 300 construction jobs, as well as around 30 operational jobs, in addition to industrial servicing spin-offs.
The new technology uses sodium to remove 90 per cent of the sulphur and metal atoms in heavy oil, making it market ready. The finished product also meets strict global fuel regulations, which will drop sulphur limits on marine fuel from 3.5 per cent to 0.5 per cent by 2020.
“Shipping companies will have no choice but to find sources of lower-sulphur fuel to power their tankers,” said Ed Gibbons, chairperson of Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association (AIHA).
“This provides a great opportunity for a company like Field Upgrading.
“They see the trend, realize there’s a future need, and are creating the product now so it’ll be ready when demand ramps up. You can’t ask for a better business case.”
While the demonstration facility is nowhere near the size of a large refinery, it will bring jobs and spending to the region, according to AIHA.
“We’re very excited to see Field Upgrading’s technology advance to commercialization stage,” Gibbon said.
“It showcases the ingenuity, innovation, and resourcefulness of the companies that operate in the Heartland and across the province.
“Any time you can take a new technology, add value to our natural resources, and do it in a way that has the environment at the forefront, it’s going to catch global attention.”
The next phase is already receiving attention from major industry players, such as Cenovus, representatives from which sit on Field Upgrading’s industry advisory committee.
“They’re really keen. They’ve been with us from the lab, to the pilot, and now the demo,” Doig acknowledged.
“They’re really, really interested. They could be a purchaser of the product or technology, or it could be a joint-partnership venture.”
The pilot project saw testing on crude oils from Shell, Esso and some companies in China. Sulphur content in those feedstocks ranged from two to five per cent, and through the technology, was reduced to 0.5 per cent.
“Globally, there’s been a lot of people who are interested (in the project),” Doig added.
“Ships move about 90 per cent of everything on our planet. Everything comes sooner or later by ship. It has a pretty impressive carbon intensity… The world’s 15 biggest ships have more (sulphur dioxide) or pollution than all of the world’s cars.
Written By Lindsay Morey