A land-locked Fort Saskatchewan industry will help clean up 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 ten 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 levels of government to the tune of $14 million, from the SDTC sustainable development technology Canada fund (SDTC) and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA).
The financial viability 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 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. We would have these 10,000 barrels per day modules, you could replicate them, engineering and fabrication is fast. Fabrication could be done in the Heartland and we can roll that out and sell it globally,” explained Lisa Doig, head of commercialization with Field Upgrading.
“It’s an opportunity to use a made-in-Alberta technology, using Alberta feed stock 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 it will remain somewhere in the Heartland. It will generate 200 to 300 construction jobs and will employ around 30 operational jobs, in addition to industrial servicing spin-offs.
The new technology uses sodium to remove 90 per cent of sulphur and metal atoms from 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. 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,” said Ed Gibbons, Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association chair.
A demonstration facility is nowhere near the size of a large refinery, however, it will bring jobs and spending to the region and is viewed as a win by the AIHA.
“We’re very excited to see Field Upgrading’s technology advance to commercialization stage,” Gibbons 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 on the forefront, it’s going to catch global attention.”
The next phase is already receiving attention from major industry players such as Cenovus, who sits 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. They’re really really interested. They could be a purchaser of the product or technology or it could be a joint-partnership venture,” said Doig.
Shell, Esso, and some companies in China were among those who contributed 40 kinds of crude tested during the pilot. Sulphur content in those feedstocks ranged from two to five per cent and through the technology was reduced to 0.5 per cent to meet global sulphur limits.
“Globally, there’s been a lot of people who are interested,” she 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.
Field Upgrading will maintain its infrastructure in the Fort because of the community’s openness to trying new things and highly skilled workforce, noting another new technology might be piloted in the future.
“We call Fort Saskatchewan innovation alley and we’ll keep making new technologies and keep rolling them out,” Doig said.
Written By Lindsay Morey