In March 2017, Canada’s largest railway, CN, filed a patent for a new technology developed in collaboration with InnoTech Alberta that turns bitumen into a solid good.
The Surface Separation and Fuels & Lubricants teams at InnoTech Alberta collaborated in developing this technology, which includes the dispersion of a polymer into the bitumen as well as encapsulating the bitumen within another layer of polymer. The bitumen polymer “pucks” could be transported using dry good transport systems, similar to coal or grain. The solidification process is reversible at the destination.
CanaPux™ are solid, dry pellets that will meet the rigorous strength requirements for bulk transport, float in water and do not leak or dissolve, so there is minimal risk of environmental contamination to oceans, lakes and rivers. In the event of a spill during transport, the pucks can be recovered quickly and efficiently.
Further work is continuing on the optimization of the pucks in terms of packing density, sufficient strength to handle shipping and minimizing impacts to the environment.
In December 2017, CN announced that Calgary-headquartered Toyo Engineering Canada Ltd. had been selected to design and build a pilot project to produce CanaPux™ pellets, a key step toward demonstrating the commercial viability of moving bitumen by rail in solid form.