2003 Winner: Innovation In Oil Sands Research Sponsored By Syncrude Canada Ltd.
The four researchers who make up the Paraffinic Froth Treatment Technology Commercialization Team have enhanced and commercialized a process for producing a cleaner, dryer bitumen product from the oil sands. The paraffinic froth treatment process was discovered and patented by Syncrude Canada Ltd. However, Syncrude made use rights available to members of a Froth Treatment Consortium to allow the process to be applied in other oil sands plants. This prize recognizes the continued development and the application of this process by Albian Sands Energy in their new 155,000 barrel-per-day plant.
The paraffinic froth treatment process uses a paraffinic solvent to produce a bitumen product that is essentially free of solids and water and has been partially upgraded through selective deasphalting. This process is a key component of the Albian plant because it allows the upgraded conversion units to be remotely located and designed for high conversion hydrogen addition technology. The team members have had a long involvement with the technology prior to their prize-winning application. While conducting bench-scale tests in 1994 at Syncrude Research, Dr. Yicheng Long made the exciting find that paraffinic solvent above a certain dilution point yielded a very dry and clean product.
Syncrude Research staff, including Dr. Robert Tipman, subsequently conducted a small pilot study that led to the establishment of the Froth Treatment Consortium and Paraffinic Froth Treatment pilot plant at the CANMET Western Research Centre in Devon in 1996. Shell Canada joined the consortium at this point and contributed the expertise of Dr. William Power and Dr. Tipman to support the pilot plant program work. Dr. Tadeusz Dabros became involved through CANMET and conducted numerous bench scale studies of the paraffinic process. As a CANMET researcher, Dr. Long also continued his involvement with the pilot plant work at Devon. Following the consortium work, Albian Sands Energy continued with pilot plant work at CANMET in support of their commercial process development with continued involvement of the team members from late 1997 through 1998. Results of the work at CANMET encouraged Albian Sands to establish a large-scale field pilot plant, which was operated in 1998-1999. Drs. Tipman and Power complemented the pilot plant work with in-house laboratory studies to provide additional insight into the process. The field pilot plant was the basis for Albian Sands’ full-scale commercial plant, which began operation this year at its Muskeg River Mine.
Meanwhile, research work at CANMET, led by Drs. Long and Dobros, continued to improve the fundamental understanding of the paraffinic froth treatment process. Today, Drs.Tipman, Power, Long and Dabros are recognized as the leading experts on the paraffinic froth treatment process. Their efforts have provided the oil sands industry with a new, effective alternative froth treatment process that can meet the industry requirements for bitumen quality before upgrading