Bitumen feed delayed for Alberta refinery

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Bitumen feed delayed for Alberta refinery


North West Redwater Partnership (NWRP) has delayed introduction of bitumen feed from Alberta’s oil sands at the first 80,000-b/d phase of its proposed three-phased greenfield bitumen refinery in Sturgeon County, about 45 km northeast of Edmonton, Alta. .

While the Sturgeon refinery has completed construction, commissioning, and startup of most of its 10 units and been producing low-sulfur diesel from synthetic crude oil for Western Canadian and export markets for more than a year, the refinery remains unable to refine the bitumen feedstock for which it is designed because the plant’s gasifier is still not operating, operator North West Refining Inc. (NWR) said in a May update on the project.

Despite operating for a brief period to produce hydrogen and pure carbon dioxide early in its commissioning phase, multiple issues arose shortly after, delaying full commissioning and startup of this unit.

Issues included shorter-than-expected lifespan of the reactor burners—which are part of the high-temperature process that breaks down bitumen—and stress cracking in portions of the stainless-steel piping and welds, the operator said.

The refinery currently is working with the gasifier designer, along with additional engineering and construction experts to resolve these challenges.

The reactor burners have been redesigned and are ready for final testing, with the focus now on repairing damaged piping.

With a team of staff and contractors from an experienced local construction company already assembled, several hundred people are working diligently to complete the repair work on the pipes safely, NWR said.

Based on challenges experienced to date, a full inspection of the gasifier is under way, with full commercial operation targeted by yearend, assuming any unexpected challenges are overcome without causing added delays, the operator said.

Upon commissioning of all three 80,000-b/d phases, the Sturgeon refinery—which began producing diesel and other products in November 2017—will process 240,000 b/d of Canadian bitumen feedstock to produce ultralow-sulfur diesel, diluent, and other bitumen products for both Canadian and global markets

NWRP is a joint venture of NWR (formerly North West Upgrading Inc.), Calgary, and Canadian Natural Upgrading Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., also of Calgary.

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Not to worry, the refinery still collects $750k per day from the govt. 

Because of This agreement

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