September 30, 2013

Refinery getting upgraded for Tar Sands

A refinery in northwest Ohio is seeking state approval for a $300 million upgrade to refine tar sands from Alberta, Canada.

Spokesman Mel Duvall with Canada-based Husky Energy Co. said the type of heavy crude most likely to be refined in Lima (LY'-muh) differs from the company's vast reserves of bitumen, although both are in Alberta.

The (Toledo) Blade ( says Husky is seeking an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency permit for equipment changes required to stay in compliance with federal air-pollution laws.

The agency will accept comments at a public information session Tuesday at the Lima City Council chambers and written comments will be accepted through Oct. 7.


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September 25, 2013

Mozambique to set up Bitumen Manufacturing Facility

A factory to manufacture bitumen is due to be built in the city of Beira, the capital of the Mozambican province of Sofala, as part of a 100 percent Mozambican project that will require estimated investment of US$5 million, according to Mozambican news agency AIM.

The factory, with installed capacity to produce 300 tons of bitumen per day, and a third of that earmarked for export, is expected to be finished in three months and will sell its first lot of bitumen January 2014.

This factory, the first stone of which wa slaid Friday, will reduce the cost of importing bitumen and help with construction of roads, the Public Works and Housing Minister, Cadmiel Muthemba said at the time.

The company’s director in charge of carrying out and managing the project, known as Betumemulsão Moçambique, Sebastião Simbine, said that the company was considering building a unit to manufacture drums to store asphalt and manage a fleet of tanker trucks to transport the products.

An oil pipeline will also be built to link the factory to the port of Beira in order to receive the raw material needed that is imported from some oil producing countries.

Simbine also said that Betumemulsão Moçambique was looking into building two more bitumen factories, in Nacala and Maputo, which will require an estimated investment of US$100 million.

Source- Macahub

September 24, 2013

Bitumen Futures in Shanghai Exchange

Chinese market players will soon be able to trade two energy futures contracts, according to the country's two major commodity exchanges.

Thermal coal futures will start trading on the Zhengzhou Commodity Futures on Sep. 26, while bitumen futures will have its debut on the Shanghai Futures Exchange on Oct. 9.

Thermal coal is primarily used in power generation. The introduction of the futures contracts is expected to help downstream users, such as utility companies and aluminum producers that have their own power plants, hedge price volatility and manage risks, analysts said.

Soft domestic demand and industrywide restructuring has forced the closure of many small mines and shaken up the industry. The value of China's benchmark Bohai-Rim Steam-Coal Price Index has dropped by 16% so far this year. It fell 22% in 2012 from a year earlier.

Write to Yue Li at

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September 21, 2013

Diesel from Bitumen

Construction on North America’s first new refinery in nearly 30 years is officially underway in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland.

The $6 billion dollar refinery – which will be built near Redwater – will turn bitumen from the oil sands into diesel fuel. Once it’s complete, the new North West project will refine 150,000 barrels of bitumen a day.
“It’s just such an enormous opportunity that it just, I think it dwarfs the CPR, really,” said Ian MacGregor, the chairman of North West Upgrading.

The province’s Bitumen-Royalty-In-Kind (BRIK) program, started by former premier Ed Stelmach, has proven especially critical to the project. The deal works like this: the province accepts bitumen in lieu of some royalty payments from oil sands producers. Some of that bitumen has been committed to the new refinery. The province will pay for its processing and then sell the higher value diesel that’s produced. The deal allows North West to get the funding necessary to build the refinery.

Andrew Leach, from the University of Alberta’s School of Business, calls it a “consequential moment for Alberta.” While he won’t call it a bad deal, he believes the risk isn’t necessary as minimal as the province and company suggest.

“They’re making a bet on a spread. Yes, if bitumen is heavily discounted relative to diesel fuel, they’re going to come out ahead,” Leach explained. “If this was an obvious bet that you could make a rate of return on this investment, you’d see companies doing it too.”

“It’s fundamentally a government investment in a refinery, and I don’t think people are really clear on it,” he added.

Leach believes the province should be “a little more forthcoming about what risks they’re taking.”
The county’s mayor, meanwhile, believes the rewards will far outweigh the risks; the refinery could double the county’s taxbase.

“This will ensure jobs, pensions and benefits and our kids and grandkids can live, work and play in Sturgeon County,” said Sturgeon County Mayor, Don Rigney.Alberta’s energy minister also believes the risk is a manageable one.

“Life is full of risks. If you stand still, there are risks. Standing still actually has more risks than actually building our future,” said Minister Ken Hughes. “We’re prepared to use our very substantial resources to build this province – to create opportunity.”

The project has reportedly already employed more than 1,000 people – a number that’s expected to increase to 8,000 at the peak of construction.

By  with files from Fletcher Kent, Global News

September 17, 2013

Bitumen Seepage on Six Sites

A First Nation says two more locations at an oil sands project in northeastern Alberta are seeping oily bitumen, bringing the total to six.

Chief Bernice Martial says she is worried about how such leaks are affecting the aquifers underneath the land.

Martial says she is worried about the safety of drinking water, animals and vegetation.

In July, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. said a mechanical failure at an old well was behind ongoing bitumen seepage at its oilsands project on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range.

The Calgary-based company said the damage from the four locations had been contained and the sites were being cleaned up.

At the time, almost one million litres of bitumen had leaked into the bush and muskeg and another 2,400 litres was seeping in every day.

“Our people want answers and factual information on the contamination
of now, six surface releases of bitumen oil,” Martial said in a release Monday.

Canadian Natural Resources officials were not immediately available for comment.

Source- Financial Post

Bitumen Cartel Penalties not reduced by EU

Repsol SA (REP) and Cia. Espanola de Petroleos SA lost European Union court appeals against fines levied for fixing prices of bitumen in Spain, while Nynas AB and Galp Energia SGPS SA had their penalties cut.
The EU General Court today rejected appeals by Repsol and Cepsa of the six-year-old fines.

The Luxembourg-based EU court trimmed the fines for Galp and a Spanish unit to 8.3 million euros ($11.1 million) from 8.6 million euros and reduced a penalty for Nynas to 10.4 million euros from 10.6 million euros.
The European Commission, the EU’s Brussels-based antitrust regulator, in 2007 fined four companies 183.6 million euros for their “unacceptable” actions in the Spanish cartel that lasted from at least 1991 to 2002.

The EU regulator said the companies “cheated customers, public authorities and taxpayers in Spain for almost 12 years” by sharing the market and fixing prices for the asphalt component used in road construction.

Repsol, which previously was called Repsol YPF SA, was fined 80.5 million euros. Madrid-based Cepsa was fined 83.8 million euros. BP Plc (BP/), Europe’s second-largest oil company, got immunity from any fines for being the first to come forward with information about the cartel.

Bitumen is used primarily for surfacing roads and waterproofing. More than 10,000 European companies make or layasphalt.

Further Study

“Galp is certain that a complete annulment of the decision is justified,” the Lisbon, Portugal-based company said in a statement on the securities regulator’s website. The company said it will study the ruling before deciding whether to appeal.

Kristian Rix, a spokesman for Repsol, said the company didn’t immediately have any comment, when contacted by phone. No one in the press departments of Nynas or Cepsa was immediately available for comment when contacted by phone. Cepsa is fully owned by Abu Dhabi’s state-owned International Petroleum Investment Co., which bought Total SA’s 48.8 percent stake in 2011.

Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the commission, said it welcomed the court ruling “as it confirms all the substantial findings” of the authority.

The cases are: T-462/07, T-482/07, T-495/07, T-496/07, T-497/07
To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at

Source - Businessweek

September 13, 2013

Wildlife being Saved More Effectively from Bitumen Spill

Several animals, impacted by a bitumen leak near Cold Lake, are receiving treatment at an Edmonton facility.EDMONTON – The rehabilitation of wildlife affected by a recent bitumen leak near Cold Lake continues; and those working on saving the animals are not only pleased with the progress, but believe it’s the first of its kind.

This summer, more than 7,000 barrels of bitumen seeped to the surface at a CNRL site near Cold lake. Wildlife officials have brought nearly 100 animals from that spill site to the Rehabilitation Society in Edmonton. After being cleaned and cared for, more than three quarters of them have been released back into the wild. A typical spill usually sees only 25 to 30 per cent of animals released.

“It really feels great to be able to recover this many animals successfully. It has been a large team effort. Without all the teams involved, we wouldn’t have such a high success rate,” said Wildlife Rehab Consultant Coleen Doucette.

Doucette even goes as far as to call the spill “exceptionally groundbreaking.”
“And a lot of that has to do with CNRL’s willingness to step in and make sure we have everything we need to do the best job that we could possibly do.”

This spill has provided new techniques for cleaning animals coated in bitumen.
“There has been anecdotal kind of info that we got out of spill response, but we’ve really turned a corner on this one and moved into much more scientific approaches to doing this work,” said Doucette.

“Just being able to see how a change in technique means all of a sudden a bird is eating where it wasn’t eating before…it’s great. It’s why we’re doing it,” added Kim Blomme with the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton. “We want to put them back as if nothing happened in their life.”

Studies will track beavers after they’re released to see how well and if they survive. It’s invaluable data for rescuers, government and industry.

Rehabilitation officials aren’t seeing many more animals coming in from the CNRL spill, which is on a major flight path. However, they are preparing for a possible influx because many birds are beginning to migrate south for the winter.

“We’re much better prepared than we were,” said Blomme. “When Wabamun occurred (in August 2005), we were not prepared for that. Nobody was. I think that that was a wake up call for a lot of people, So we feel a lot more prepared now but there is still a lot more work we need to do.”

With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News

September 7, 2013

Bitumen Sinks in Fresh Water

The 2010 Enbridge pipeline spill leaked 3.3 million litres of bitumin crude into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.The 2010 Enbridge pipeline spill leaked 3.3 million litres of bitumin crude into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. (Google/CBC)Three years after an Enbridge pipeline ruptured and spilled 3.3 million litres of oil into Michigan's Kalamazoo River, the company is still cleaning up and learning lessons about the way diluted bitumen behaves in fresh water.

The biggest lesson, simply put, is that bitumen sinks.
"Everybody learned from this incident about what we can do differently. Every one of us, from the regulators, to the contractors, to ourselves, have come away from this saying, 'I know what I would do differently the next time,'" explained Leon Zupan, Enbridge's chief operating officer.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Canada's largest pipeline company to return to the river to dredge areas where the agency believes remains of the heavy bitumen fossil fuel have collected. The March 2013 order came nine months after most of the 56-kilometre stretch of the river affected by the spill was reopened to the public.

The Kalamazoo incident is the largest inland spill in the history of the U.S., and has already cost Enbridge more than $1 billion.

The EPA believes there is at least 684,000 litres of bitumen still in the river. Before March's cleanup order was issued, Enbridge and the EPA went back and forth over how much oil there was and whether or not dredging it would do more harm than good to the Kalamazoo's ecosystem.
In the end, the EPA prevailed.

"They [Enbridge] don't agree with the way we develop our number. And, you know what, we're the agency and I'm not going to let them dictate how we do science," said Jeff Kimble, the EPA's incident commander in Marshall, Mich.

Bitumen sinks in fresh water

Scientific differences aside, the company agreed to the regulator's demand and began its work in August.
For Enbridge and the EPA, the main lesson from the last three years is the need to recover the diluted bitumen, or dilbit, as soon as possible.

"If you know up front that you're dealing with an oil that has the potential to sink, attack it right away and get it off the surface while you can," explained Kimble.
Enbridge agrees. "If you can err in doing some damage to get the oil out sooner, then the long-term impacts are greatly mitigated," said Zupan.

For Enbridge, though, the Kalamazoo experience changed more than just the way it responds to emergencies. Zupan said the company's whole culture around safety is now different.
"We've redefined what's important to the company. We've added to our practices and procedures. We thought we were pretty good. We want to be the best," Zupan told CBC News.

But some in the area of the spill aren't buying that. Deb Miller of Ceresco, Mich., just down the road from Marshall, doesn't trust anything she hears from Enbridge or the EPA.

Jeff Kimble, an incident commander for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, next to the Kalamazoo River near the village of Ceresco, Mich. 
Jeff Kimble, an incident commander for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, next to the Kalamazoo River near the village of Ceresco, Mich. (Sat Nandlall/CBC News)
 "I was absolutely naive going into this. I probably trusted more than I should have. I took things at face value that I should have never," explained Miller.

Miller's house backs on to the Kalamazoo River. When the spill happened, she was undergoing chemotherapy and her doctor ordered her to stay inside to escape the asphalt-scented fumes that permeated her village. From the beginning, she said, company and government officials have given conflicting and changing orders and advice.

"EPA has been very, very vocal in admitting the fact that they're writing the book as they go along on this spill," she said. But, she said, Enbridge is the real villain.
"Enbridge does what they have to do and only that," said Miller. She understands that the company is a for-profit business and that guides many of its decisions. But her life and town changed radically after the spill.

She and her husband had to shut down their carpet store. Enbridge bought the building but not the business.
Many of her neighbours moved away.

"When it affects people, residents — there's a high road and there's a low road. And unfortunately, I think they [Enbridge] found that low road."

Enbridge lived up to its promise

For Dr. Jim Dobbins, a retired family doctor and vice-president of a local conservation society in Marshall, that assessment of the company might be a little harsh. He admits he was sickened and angry as he watched the oil course under the bridge that spans the Kalamazoo just west of town. But when then Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel addressed a community meeting in Marshall soon after the spill, he decided to give the company a chance.

"[Daniel] said, 'We've made a mess and we're going to clean it up,'" recounted Dobbins. He admits to being pleasantly surprised.

"I'm not angry at the company," said Dobbins, although he is rankled by the spill.
"But generally, it appears as though they have done what they said they would do. And that is clean up the river."

He also thinks the EPA has gone too far with this latest order to re-dredge the river.
"I'm very concerned about them doing more damage to the river than [they] are good by retrieving that amount of oil that's left," said Dobbins. He thinks it is all about the EPA throwing its weight around rather than worry over the Kalamazoo's ecosystem.

Kimble explained it differently.
"You know, bottom line for EPA is under our authority this is oil that's causing a sheen or a release on a navigable waterway. Our authority says and our law says, get it out of the system."
That is precisely what Enbridge is doing. And, like everyone else involved in this incident, hoping to learn something in the process.

"The legacy for us is not that you can clean up a major oil spill after it occurs even though the river looks great today. The legacy for us is how do you make sure it never happens again," said Zupan.

Source- CBA News

September 6, 2013

Bitumen Spill - Should the Public Money to be used ?

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images Enbridge is still in the process of cleaning up bitumen that spilled in the Kalamazoo River, pictured here in 2010, but little scientific research has been done about how extra heavy crude behaves in saltwater.
The debate continued to rage on Thursday about whether the federal government should spend millions of public dollars on measures Green Party leaders charge are “greasing the wheels” for Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

Leaked documents show the feds plan to spend $6.8 million over the next three years — not the $78 million initially reported on Wednesday — on developing the first ever computer models to predict how diluted bitumen would behave if spilled in the ocean.

Adam Holbrook, associate director of the Centre for Policy Research on Science and Technology at SFU, said the Greens are right to say public funds are being allocated for private purposes, but that’s nothing new.
“Yes, it’s true, but also, government does this all the time, and not just for the natural resources industries,” he said.

“It does it for manufacturing, it does it for services industries. There are a number of different programs, but it’s grease.”

He argued it is in the public interest for Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Natural Resources Canada to carry out the research, because if Enbridge did it the company would own it and no one else would have access to it.

Holbrook noted it is common practice for governments to fund “pre-competitive research” and then leave it to industries to pay for follow-up research from which they might profit.
In Enbridge’s case, that could mean using the government’s data on bitumen behaviour to develop innovative spill mitigation and cleanup techniques.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May clarified that Wednesday’s headlines misconstrued her primary concern, which is that more than $120 million has been earmarked for studies and infrastructure for the Douglas Channel at a time when so much other scientific research funding is being cut.
She repeated her assertion that the millions being spent on improving weather forecasts to aid oil tanker navigation is “jumping the gun” on a project that has yet to be approved by the National Energy Board, and is opposed by the B.C. government.

 By Kate Webb Metro