Cutting-edge science and technology for processing bitumen, heavy oil, and tailings

The hydrocarbon processing service focuses on working with partners to develop mineable oil sands and bitumen processing technologies and methods. Our technical knowledge and lab testing capabilities assess bitumen extraction from mined oil sands, enhance the processing of fluids treatment (froth, oil, and water), tailings management, and add value to bitumen through partial upgrading and the generation of asphaltene carbon fibres.

We can characterize emulsion and froth to enhance production fluids separation; improving tailings treatment; and adding value to bitumen through partial upgrading and asphaltene carbon fibres development. These efforts advance well productivity in oil production and improve the physical chemical characterization of petroleum fluids.

InnoTech’s capabilities in the surface mining bitumen extraction and strong track record in providing technical solutions to oil sand operators have made it a preferred R&D laboratory. We are also a research provider to the AACI consortia program and Bitumen Beyond Combustion Program from AI-Clean Resources.

What's on this page?

Assessment of Bitumen Extraction Processability
Assessment of Bitumen Extraction Processability

Emulsion and Froth Characterization & Treatment
Emulsion and Froth Characterization & Treatment

Improving Tailings Treatment
Improving Tailings Treatment

Partial Upgrading Process Development and Validation
Partial Upgrading Process Development and Validation

Bitumen Beyond Combustion
Bitumen Beyond Combustion

Our Capabilities & Specialized Testing
Our Capabilities & Specialized Testing

Assessment of Bitumen Extraction Processability

Fresh water use in the extraction of heavy oil and bitumen is a major environmental challenge in the oilsands. It results in tailings ponds with high concentrations of toxins and by-products that are an ecological threat to animals, plants, and people.

We assist in developing non-aqueous procedures using oil sand ores, submitted to solvents, and turned into transportable bitumen. This reduces the use of water, the requirement for tailings ponds, and, as opposed to water, the solvent can be recycled and reused.

Emulsion and Froth Characterization & Treatment

We research and advance the process of froth treatment for oil sands clients. This refers to the process of removing water and minerals (usually using naphthenic or paraffinic methods) so that the viscosity of the bitumen is reduced and can be processed.

The process involves injecting light hydrocarbon and then mixing it with the bitumen froth, it is then subjected to a froth separator to separate this mixture using gravity. The hydrocarbon can then be recycled and put through this process again until it is clean enough to be recovered (generally <1% water and <1% solids)

Improving Tailings Treatment

InnoTech works with petroleum producers and regulatory agencies to provide technical supports and solutions for the inter-related impacts of tailings ponds in the oil sands industry. Our work has created a unique platform and service package to validate new and existing tailings technologies from slurry to soils.

We have extensive experience using flocculation (adding a chemical coagulant to water acts to bond particles), sedimentation (the settling of suspended particles as sludge), geotechnics (using engineering, geological, and hydrological principles), and chemical additives in tailings treatment.

Partial Upgrading Process Development and Validation

The process of bitumen partial upgrading is used to process heavy oil and bitumen to improve its quality and decrease its viscosity (thickness) and density. Overall, bitumen partial upgrading improves the quality of bitumen and heavy oil.

Partial upgrading ensures the heavy oil/bitumen can be transported via pipelines for refinement, increases the value of the bitumen and heavy oil, improves access to energy resources, and reduced the impact of the industry on the environment.

Bitumen Beyond Combustion

Asphaltene is a component of heavy, crude oil that makes bitumen difficult to process. InnoTech has been developing a process to convert these graphene-like molecules to carbon fibres that can be utilized in the construction and automotive industries.

The biggest opportunity with asphaltene carbon fibre development is that it lowers the cost of oil production, it promotes a higher value per barrel of oil, and has widespread manufacturing potential.

Grinding and shaping Carbon fiber composite material

Our Capabilities & Specialized Testing

Technology Evaluation

  • Development, selection and de-risking of manufacturing and materials technologies
    • Protective materials for wear and corrosion
    • Metals, polymers, composites, and ceramics
    • Pipeline materials, fittings, valves, and instrumentation
    • Coatings, surface treatments and weld overlays
  • Prototype development and evaluation
  • Qualification specification development 

Laboratory Scale

  • Metallographic analysis – metals, polymers, ceramics and polymers
  • Wear testing – abrasion, erosion and impact
  • Mechanical testing including tensile, bend, Charpy Impact, fracture toughness and hardness mapping
  • Solid particle size and shape analysis
  • Evaluation to determine corrosion susceptibility in environmental and stress induced cracking
  • Chemical mitigation testing (e.g., inhibitors, biocides, wax dispersants, asphaltene dissolvers, etc.) for oil and aqueous systems
  • Corrosion resistance, anti-fouling properties and integrity of coatings
  • Testing according to various NACE, ISO, ASTM and CSA standards.
  • Polymer and elastomer testing, including cast in place pipe materials

Field Support

  • Pipeline process condition monitoring, wear analysis and material selection optimization
  • Non-destructive evaluation (UT, PAUT, Laser, Radiography)
  • Data acquisition, interpretation, and modelling
  • Technology demonstration and test method development
  • Project management and logistics 

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)

  • Multiphase flow simulation
  • Thermal-hydraulic analysis