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Canada’s hidden and unwanted gift in its heavy crudes

Promoters of Canadian tar sands development and the sale of large volumes of Canadian heavy oil never mention this hidden and unwanted ‘gift’ of high sulfur ‘coal’ that comes with the heavy oil. It is the ‘dirty little secret’ of the Canadian heavy oil crude that nobody in the oil industry wants to talk about. Where this stuff will be stored is a problem yet to be solved. At the present time it cannot be used as a fuel in the US because it is so polluting, worse that the dirtiest coal mined in the US.

Article authored by a regular contributor

John,

The following links tell a story about Canadian tar sands development that is interesting because they bring attention to a serious problem associated with the refining of the heavy crudes and bitumen from Canadian tar sand that has yet to be debated.

The refining of Canadian heavy crudes from the tar sands of Alberta in large volumes is going to produce vast amounts of a high sulfur content solid carbon by-product called ‘petroleum coke’, or ‘pet coke’. Disposal of this unwanted by-product will quickly become a problem for the refiners and nobody seems to be paying attention to that little fact.

This pet coke is a by-product of the refining process of the heavy Canadian crude oils. Pet coke is basically a solid form of carbon, essentially another form of coal. The refining of large volumes of heavy Canadian oil and bitumen will produce massive amounts of pet coke. Each barrel of heavy crude from Alberta pumped to the US will contain 60 -120 lbs of this stuff. That means 1.5 million bbls of heavy oil shipped to the US daily will produce 90 -180 million lbs of this stuff daily, that is 45,000 – 90,000 short tons – each and every day.

Promoters of Canadian tar sands development and the sale of large volumes of Canadian heavy oil never mention this hidden and unwanted ‘gift’ of high sulfur ‘coal’ that comes with the heavy oil. It is the ‘dirty little secret’ of the Canadian heavy oil crude that nobody in the oil industry wants to talk about. Where this stuff will be stored is a problem yet to be solved. At the present time it cannot be used as a fuel in the US because it is so polluting, worse that the dirtiest coal mined in the US. So, it must be sold and shipped overseas.

An example of the problem this pet coke will become can be found in Detroit, Michigan. In Detroit a Marathon Oil refinery with a heavy crude refining capacity of about 28,000 bbls/day has produced a small mountain of this stuff. Koch Carbon, owned by the billionaire Koch brothers, is responsible for this pile of industrial waste. Ironically, this pile of Detroit pet coke is now being shipped back to Canada as a cheap, albeit high sulfur content, replacement fuel for coal and natural gas.

Ironically, using a well know conversation process this pet coke can be converted to natural gas and petroleum liquids. However, there are no plants in existence or planned that can liquify this pet coke by-product.

Because this stuff is so cheap, refiners essentially give it away, it may become an attractive alternative fuel to both coal and gas here in the US. However, to use pet coke as a fuel will require either relaxing EPA emission standards on existing power plants, etc., or expensive upgrades to those plants.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. The oil refiners will need to dispose of this unwanted by-product, and US power companies will want to use the stuff as fuel. Both groups will undoubtedly lobby hard for a relaxation of US clean air standards.

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Links

Shell celebrates a decade of oil sands production in the Athabasca …: Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly: TORONTO – Global fossil fuels major Royal Dutch Shell on Monday celebrated a decade of oil sands production as …

Petroleum coke – Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia: Petroleum coke (often abbreviated Pet coke or petcoke) is a carbonaceous solid derived from oil refinery coker units or other cracking processes. Other coke has ..
Petroleum coke and the coal industry – Pet Coke Consulting for …: Petroleum coke and the coal industry: Petroleum coke has made significant inroads into the steam coal industry over the last few years and will continue to do so …

Petroleum Coke: the coal hiding in the tar SandS – Oil Change …: new Petcoke Supply in the Midwest could help Sustain Struggling coal Plants. 34 new Petcoke Power Plants: the las[PDF]Brisas (Petcoke) energy center. 37.

Petroleum Coke – Green Fuels Factory Inc: Petroleum coke is a solid residue that is a byproduct of heavy oil upgraders. … Board of Alberta “ERCB” does not allow petroleum coke to be disposed of. Instead …

You need to see these photos of the pet coke piles in Detroit …:  – Michigan Radio has had several reports on the petroleum coke piles along the Detroit River in southwest Detroit. But to better visualize the …

Detroit’s mountains of petroleum coke are ‘dirtier than the dirtiest fuel …: Jun 7, 2013 – Byproduct of tar sands production is piling up in Detroit, and environmentalists fear Keystone XL pipeline will bring more.

Huge Petroleum Coke Pile Makes Way Back to Canada – NYTimes …: by Ian Austen: Jun 6, 2013 – A Canadian electrical power plant, owned by Nova Scotia Power, is chipping away at the three-story-high, blocklong pile ofpetroleum coke on …

LiveLeak.com – mountain of coke, waste from refining Alberta …: Jun 8, 2013: Originally considered as a material to be disposed of and buried, petcoke has grown into an industry that has …

Gasification and Liquefaction – DKRW Energy: Gasification and liquefaction is a proven process for converting coal into … petroleum based materials (crude oil, high sulfur fuel oil, petroleum coke, and other …

FURTHER INFORMATION ADDED

This link has some interesting statistics. As it happens to be the planned capacity of the Keystone XL pipeline is about 900,000 bbl/day. That will result in about 50,000 short tons of pet coke production per day in US refineries. There are some interesting photo’s of the pet coke stockpiled at Ft. McMurray. Sulfur pyramids there are growing as well. The tar sands oil has a high sulfur content.

Petroleum Coke: the coal hiding in the tar SandS – Oil Change …

And here is an interesting web site :

stop the petroleum coke power plant – The Petition Site: Preliminary approval has been given to Consolidated Energy (CE) to build a large commercial power… (277 signatures on petition)

And here are some ‘facts’ for your readers:

  • Petcoke looks and acts like coal, but it has even higher carbon emissions than already carbon-intensive coal.
  • On a per-unit of energy basis petcoke emits 5 to 10 percent more carbon dioxide than coal.
  • A ton of petcoke yields on average 53.6 percent more CO2 than a ton of coal.
  • The proven tar sands reserves of Canada will yield roughly 5 billion tons of petcoke – enough to fully fuel 111 U.S. coal plants to 2050.
  • Because it is considered a refinery byproduct, petcoke emissions are not included in most assessments of the climate impact of tar sands or conventional oil production and consumption. Thus the climate impact of oil production is being consistently under-counted.

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