Cenovus bets on partial-upgrading to help it through pipeline constraints

Cenovus bets on partial-upgrading to help it through pipeline constraints

Calgary's Fractal Systems announced a new non-binding term sheet with Cenovus Energy for its proposed Enhanced JetShear (EJS) Regional Hub project, a 70,000 bbl/day diluted bitumen (dilbit) partial-upgrading facility.

Fractal says it has worked collaboratively with Cenovus on various pilot projects for its Enhanced JetShear technology since 2013. Over 225,000 bbl/day of dilbit from both Christina Lake and Foster Creek were processed through a field-pilot test facility located in Alberta.

 

SIMPLIFIED PROCESS FLOW DIAGRAM OF JETSHEAR DEMO PLANT (COURTESY FRACTAL SYSTEMS)

 

The JetShear process involves stripping off the diluent, and heating the remaining bitumen to temperatures just below thermal cracking, or roughly 400°C. The bitumen is then sheared by pumping through a series of proprietary jet-nozzles. The resulting cavitation, or rapid change in pressure, modifies the chemical structure of the heavy molecules, thereby lowering the viscosity of the bitumen.

Results from the demo plant showed improvements in viscosity and density, allowing for a greater than 40% reduction in the amount of diluent required to meet pipeline transport specifications. The improvement would reduce pipeline volumes and shipping costs by about 20%.

Fractal also says dilbit acidity, known as the Total Acid Number (TAN), can be reduced by more than 60%, potentially improving pricing and marketability of the final product.

The term sheet signed with Cenovus would see the company supply up to 35,000 bbl/day of its own dilbit, representing as much as half of the hub's total feedstock. Fractal has already secured over $12 million in funding from the Alberta Government and Government of Canada. The company says it continues to work towards the sanctioning of a commercial-scale facility.

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