A Canadian law passed in June prevents Alberta oilsands crude being shipped from the British Columbia terminals along Canada’s northern Pacific coastline.
This was due to fears of the environmental damage if there was an oil spill. But a test shipment of Alberta crude is now on its way to China from the B.C northern port of Prince Rupert thanks to a loophole.
Because of the shipping limitation on crude, and limits on capacity of pipelines, Alberta oil producers were seeking other ways to move the product to refineries in the U.S.
Now two firms, Melius Energy and BitCrude say they’ve found a solution. Their process removes much of the lighter petroleum leaving a semi-solid bitumen that can be used in asphalt and diesel and can be shipped in containers. They say this product greatly reduces the concerns about liquid crude spills.
Instead of going to the Pacific coast in pipelines, some 130 barrels of the “neatbit” product, roughly equivalent to 20,000 litres, was loaded into a shipping container, then transported by rail to Prince Rupert on the northern B.C coast, and loaded onto a container ship.
A spokesman noted that the product is much safer to ship as unlike crude, it is non-flammable, floats, and is claimed to be non-toxic to marine life. A spill on land or sea would have very little environmental affect and would be much more easily recovered.
A spokesman for the companies say the potential is up to 120,000 barrels a day shipped by train to be onloaded to container ships.
Additional information –sources
- Bloomberg (via TorStar): R.Tuttle: Sep 26/19: Oil sands crude sails despite ban
- Financial Post: C.McLelland: Sep 26/19: Alberta company tests shipment of solid form bitumen to avoid tanker ban
- JWNenergy: N.Bennet: Sep 26/19: First shipment of semi-solid bitumen on its way
- Canadian Press (via CBC): Sep 26/19:Calgary innovation could bypass tanker ban