Developing easily transportable, safer, bitumen “pucks”

Posted on: March 16, 2018 Featured, heavy oil, transport

In March 2017, Canada’s largest railway, CN, recently 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. In the event of a spill during transport, the pucks, which float in both fresh and salt water, 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. has 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.

“Working with InnoTech Alberta, CN has developed CanaPux™, an innovative product and new way of transporting bitumen that puts both safety and the environment at the forefront,” said Janet Drysdale, vice-president of corporate development & sustainability at CN. “This partnership with Toyo continues our development of a new supply chain that has the potential to unlock offshore markets for Canada’s energy producers.”

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. Toyo will participate in a closed-loop pilot project to create equipment that can solidify and re-liquefy up to 1,000 barrels of bitumen per day.

“This is an exciting step in the development of CanaPux™ pellets and we look forward to working with Toyo to move this oil sands innovation forward,” said Ross Chow, managing director of InnoTech Alberta.