Oil Sands Bitumen Combustion

Canada has the largest oil sands (mixtures of sand, clay, water, and a dense and viscous form of petroleum called bitumen) in the world, with an estimated 1.7 trillion barrels in the Canadian Athabasca Oil Sands. Bituminous oil sands can be extracted via expensive and energy- and water-intensive processes and then converted or refined into synthetic oil or petroleum products.

The oil sands industry now faces many challenges, including substantial energy demand for production and bitumen upgrading operations, which result in associated greenhouse gas (GHG) and pollutant emissions. This has prompted efforts to secure a clean and reliable energy supply by:

  • exploring alternative fuels that can substitute natural gas
  • producing low-cost fuels that can be derived from bitumen or residues from the bitumen upgrading process
  • developing new energy production processes that allow for carbon capture and storage

CanmetENERGY works with partners to develop new scientific knowledge on the chemical characteristics of residues from bitumen upgrading processes, in order to formulate a new combustion protocol for the combustion of oil/water emulsions that contain these residues. Our scientists and researchers study typical fuel parameters including particle size, water content, viscosity, asphaltenes, and mineral contents. We also examine essential combustion characteristics including fuel flow and stability characteristics, ignition and flame characteristics, heat transfer properties, gaseous and particulate emissions, and their concentrations and performance features relative to natural gas.

Bitumen emulsion has a greater heat transfer potential than natural gas.

CanmetENERGY has worked with Quadrise to evaluate the combustion performance of oil/water emulsions that are prepared from oil sands bitumen products for application as secure, low-cost fuels for clean heat and power generation. We have developed a new combustion methodology for these fuels, resulting in a CO2-laden, >90% flue gas suitable for CO2 sequestration. If this methodology for using lower-cost bitumen-derived fuel for steam generation in oil sands extraction operations is successfully demonstrated on the pilot-scale, similar facilities would be constructed elsewhere, leading to significant reductions in harmful GHG and pollutant emissions. Our innovative work in this area will provide technical, economical, health, and environmental benefits over the long run.

CanmetENERGY also participates in other fuels and emissions assessments. For more information, please contact us.