February 20, 2013

AMC to use VG30 Grade Bitumen

The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has selected VG-30 as an ideal bitumen grade to be used by contractors for laying roads. Lately, the contractors had been taking liberty of using low grade bitumen from various companies.

The standing committee of the AMC has proposed in its forthcoming agenda meet to approve a specific company's bitumen along with that of IOCL, BPCL and HPCL companies. Contractors had been earlier instructed to use bitumen from state owned companies. 

 Hence the AMC will not insist that the contractors awarded the work for the road resurfacing should be using the same bitumen which they have shortlisted.

Meanwhile officials said that the standing committee also took note that a total of 145 properties were sealed by the AMC on Monday across various zones of the city and nearly 68 sealed properties were allowed to be opened. The corporation has collected Rs 13.8 lakh as pending tax from these properties. In the last few months, the AMC has sealed a total of 4,948 properties and opened seals of 1,599 properties.

Source- Times of India

February 19, 2013

Turning Bitumen into Diesel

Strathcona County watched in dismay as the plans for half-a- dozen upgraders disappeared with the 2008-09 global meltdown, recalls Mayor Linda Osinchuk.

But these days, there’s some optimism that at least two of the projects are possible — reviving the mothballed Heartland, also called the B.A. upgrader, already partially built by Calgary-based Value Creation Inc.; and the North West upgrader near Redwater that will turn bitumen into diesel.

The B.A. upgrader, owned by Value Creation Inc., could be ready in 18 months to turn 85,000 barrels of bitumen into synthetic crude that any refinery in Canada could handle, Osinchuk noted.

The North West upgrader, barely started, is just five years away.

That short time frame is very attractive to oilsands producers currently facing a lack of pipeline capacity to ship the stickier bitumen that can go to only a handful of U.S. refineries on the Gulf coast.

“The fastest, soonest solution is the B.A. upgrader,” said Osinchuk. “We support pipelines, of course, but you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. The fastest, soonest solution is the B.A. upgrader.”

Osinchuk is “both frustrated and optimistic” these days. The upgrader’s future is in limbo because of a battle over expanded urban boundaries for the city of Fort McMurray, but there must be a way to find a solution, she says.

Columba Yeung, VCI founder and CEO, says the company needs access to its bitumen reserves as collateral to raise the capital to finish the upgrader. Consultations with the province are underway.

Yeung says that, having closed down the project once due to financial problems, he needs the collateral to convince investors to come back. “We don’t want to go through that again,” he says.

Osinchuk recently visited High River south of Calgary to tour VCI’s new technology project and was excited by what she saw.

Yeung, a research scientist and the engineer who built the Shell Scotford upgrader and refinery, says he has developed new technology that will partially upgrade the bitumen as it comes out of the ground under the steam-assisted gravity drainage techniques.

By removing a component called asphaltenes in the bitumen, the product comes out as a medium crude oil and can be handled by a much wider range of refineries, including those in Eastern Canada, he says.

“If we make it into medium crude, it is also a perfect replacement for Alaskan crude in California,” said Yeung, looking at new potential markets.

The bitumen bubble is caused partly by the fact only a handful of refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast can handle the bitumen, Yeung says.

It is also costly and inefficient to ship it to the Gulf coast as one-third of pipeline product is diluent, he adds.

Osinchuk says the province needs to look at all options to keep the energy industry healthy. “It’s time to move in a bit of a different directions.”

February 7, 2013

Diluted Bitumen - Will It Sink or Float

The diluted bitumen that will flow from the Alberta oil sands to a B.C. tanker port would not sink in the event of a marine oil spill, contrary to claims made by opponents, say experts behind the Northern Gateway Pipeline project.

As such, the marine oil-spill response plan — which the company points out it has taken on voluntarily, above and beyond Canadian regulations — does not need and does not include measures to remove oil from the ocean floor, a regulatory review panel heard Wednesday.

 That panel is currently examining the project’s marine oil-spill plans.
“I don’t know if it’s possible to drive a stake through the heart of this concept of sinking oil, but every one of these liquids that we’re talking about is no different from any other liquid we have on Earth,” said Al Maki, one of 10 experts answering questions under oath this week.

Experience and lab tests show diluted bitumen weighs less than water, Maki said.
“It is an immutable fact of physics that they will float. They simply cannot sink in water.”
That claim brought lawyers representing six First Nations and environmental groups to their feet to dispute the statement and demand a copy of the report cited by the company.

There is no scientific consensus on the behaviour of diluted bitumen in a real-life spill situation.
Documents obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information last summer included a request from the head of Fisheries and Oceans’ Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research section for further study — a request that appears to have been denied.

Chris Jones, the lawyer questioning the company experts on behalf of the B.C. government, pointed out that Northern Gateway itself has committed to further research on diluted bitumen as part of its application, as well as participation on a scientific advisory committee.

“Why is all that scientific work necessary if Northern Gateway is so confident that diluted bitumen won’t sink?” Jones asked.

There’s always room for improvement, was the response. And, in any event, the research and committee were recommendations of Environment Canada, consultant Owen McHugh told the panel.
“We understand that this is a contentious project, and there are issues that people want explored and we felt this was an appropriate avenue to have those issues explored, so that’s why we committed to this group,” he said.

ForestEthics, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, and the Living Oceans Society, along with the Haisla, Haida and Heiltsuk First Nations, have submitted to the panel that diluted bitumen does sink, making it extremely difficult — if not impossible — to clean up.

“The issue of whether bitumen will sink or float is a critical issue that is very important to these hearings,” said Karen Campbell, the lawyer for the environmental groups.
The inability to clean up diluted bitumen means a spill would be catastrophic to the environment and marine species, the environmental groups argue.

Bitumen is a thick oil product similar to molasses at room temperature, according to Alberta Energy. At one time, it was used for roofing and paving, like tar.

In order to move through a pipeline, bitumen must be diluted. Northern Gateway product would be mixed with natural gas condensate, the product that would flow from B.C. to Alberta in one of the twin pipelines linking Alberta with a tanker port in Kitimat, B.C.

Environmental groups opposed to the Northern Gateway and other pipelines argue “dilbit” is also more corrosive than conventional crude, meaning it corrodes pipelines, increasing the likelihood of a land-based spill as well.

Northern Gateway says that is not the case. Pipelines have been carrying dilbit from Alberta for 30 years, said Paul Stanway, a spokesman for the company, and the frequency of spills is no greater than conventional oil pipelines.


February 6, 2013

South Africa's Projects delayed due to Bitumen Shortage

BITUMEN, which is mainly used to make asphalt for road tarring and in other construction, is in short supply in South Africa, putting pressure on the South African National Roads Agency’s (Sanral’s) multibillion-rand road upgrade and building plans.

It is also making it tougher for companies that work with the parastatal to make profits.
The lack of bitumen was reiterated at a media roundtable held by the South African Petroleum Industry Association (Sapia) on Monday.

Sapia’s chairman for this year, who is also CEO of Total South Africa, Christian des Closieres, said Sapia had not yet worked out a way of making, or importing, bitumen on a timely and reliable basis, and that construction companies would continue to see supply being volatile.

"It is true that bitumen has been a bit of a problem. Companies lacked budget to import it last year. However, demand actually tapered off from the middle of the year when the industry was struggling to get bitumen," he said.

Last year, some construction projects were delayed because bitumen, which is a hydrocarbon byproduct of refining heavy crude oil, had to be imported. Planned and unplanned refinery shutdowns, especially overseas, made the timing of import orders difficult.

Projects affected in Cape Town included the MyCiTi Integrated Rapid Transit feeder bus-stop contracts. The city imported 4,500 tons of bitumen from Malaysia in May alone, said the mayoral committee member for transport, roads and stormwater, Brett Herron.

Sapia executive director Avhapfani Tshifularo said to store bitumen, one needed an advanced facility, and it was expensive to keep the heavy material in the facility."It is difficult to match the supply and demand of bitumen, but we are looking at strategies of making it easier to get the building material in South Africa," he said.

Mr des Closieres said it would be easier to secure a supply of bitumen when infrastructure improved, as well as the channels that could transport the heavy material at a lower cost than road transport.
He noted that PetroSA would build a new oil refinery in the Eastern Cape this year, which would make South Africa less reliant on bitumen imports. The South African Bitumen Association had to form a consortium to import bitumen last year.

Transport Minister Ben Martins said small-scale projects such as pothole repairs were put on hold nationwide to focus on bigger projects, such as the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.
"We have had to shift resources to the bigger projects," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr des Closieres said Sapia members would probably not find doing business any less difficult if their markets were less regulated than at present.

He said the government setting the petrol price, as opposed to a different body making the call, was not something which Sapia had given express attention to recently.

Source- BDLive