Metals miner has developed oil sands partial upgrading technology


Industry Innovation & Technology Energy Manufacturing Resource Sector Alberta bitumen carbon energy manufacturing oil Oil Sands pipeline

Sherritt's process creates a lighter barrel of oil that will flow in a pipeline without being diluted.

CALGARY — Toronto-based miner Sherritt International Corp. says it has developed a partial upgrading technology for the oil sands that could qualify for a $1-billion incentive program recently announced by the Alberta government.

CEO David Pathe says the company has completed successful laboratory testing of the process at its facility in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., and is now looking for an industry partner to help test it on a larger scale.

The technology borrows from Sherritt’s research into the use of autoclaves, containers for chemical reactions using high pressure and temperatures, in metals processing.

Pathe says the process involves stirring hydrogen into the bitumen under pressure at high temperature in the presence of a proprietary catalyst to create a lighter barrel of oil that will flow in a pipeline without being diluted.


Diluent is expensive and takes away precious export pipeline space for Alberta’s growing production of bitumen.

That’s why Alberta announced in February a $1-billion loan guarantee and grant program to begin next year through which it hopes to attract two to five partial bitumen upgrading facilities worth $5 billion in private investment.

“One of the advantages of our (technology) is that it’s not like other partial upgrading where you leave behind large volumes of low-quality slag or coke,” said Pathe.

“Instead of stripping out low-grade carbon, we’re adding hydrogen and actually maintaining the liquid volumes.”

He says the resulting product will likely command a premium price because it will contain less sulphur and heavy metals.

The company is active in several resource industries, primarily in Madagascar and in Cuba, where it has nickel and oil operations.



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