Value Creation Group developed three proprietary technologies, ADC™, COC™ and CSIR™. These technologies address the root causes of the major obstacles inhibiting the growth of the oil sands industry – the high capital and operating costs, the relatively high carbon-footprint and “Dirty Oil Image”, the pipeline bottleneck, and the limited refining market.
The ADC™ process simultaneously separates the water and asphaltenes from the bitumen emulsion, and produces de-contaminated oil called DCO that is nearly asphaltene-free. The crucial step in ADC™ technology is the application of colloid physics, which enables much faster separation, higher DCO yield and higher energy efficiency. ADC™ has the unique feature that it not only tolerates water in the feed, it utilizes the water to enhance the separation process and DCO recovery.
COC™ (Clean Oil Cracking) is an innovative thermal cracking process, and is the lowest-cost conversion process capable of cracking the residues of heavy oil or bitumen at high conversions. COC™ utilizes heat to break up large molecules into smaller ones, thereby converting the heavy oils or residues into light oil products. It is based on conventional thermal cracking hardware and thus has no scale up uncertainty. The key to COC™’s high conversion is the prior removal of asphaltenes in the feed and removal of the coke precursors produced in the thermal cracking reactions. This overcomes the product instability limit and produces a clean oil product. It does not require catalysts or hydrogen, nor does it produce a coke byproduct. It has a low cost intensity similar to that of the conventional thermal cracking, but has a much higher conversion.
CSIRTM (Condensable Steam In-Situ Recovery) applies co-injection of light hydrocarbons (such as naphtha sourced from the COCTM facility) with steam to enhance in-situ bitumen recovery rate and ultimate bitumen recovery of the SAGD process. The co-injection process also provides a natural method to stabilize active olefins and diolefins in the light hydrocarbons product from COC™. CSIRTM increases the value of the harvested bitumen and also provides a significant reduction of GHG emissions compared to conventional SAGD.
Significant synergies can be achieved when integrating the ADC™ and COC™ technologies with thermal in-situ bitumen production such as SAGD and CSIR described above. Since ADC™ can process the hot bitumen emulsion directly from the well head, the costly processes of water-bitumen separation, oily water de-oiling and oil treating are eliminated. The product has a low viscosity, and thus does not require diluent for pipeline transportation. It is clean in the sense that it incurs low GHG emissions and has low contaminants. It is a premium medium crude that can be readily processed in the majority of the existing refineries. The product is thus brand-named Clean Oil La Fit (“COLF”).
COLF has some unique beneficial characteristics. For example, although sour, it has the difficult sulphur compounds removed, leaving only sulphur components that can be readily desulphurized in most existing conventional refineries. These characteristics also enable the uniquely simple and cost effective configuration employed in VCI’s Clean Oil Refinery – Heartland (“CORe-H”) Project.
Application of VCI technologies significantly reduces the GHG emissions for oil sands development. ADC™ decarbonizes the bitumen upfront, by removing the most carbonaceous component, i.e. the asphaltene, and reliably stores it in places such as a depleted mine pit as a means of solid carbon sequestration and storage. In contrast, the current industry norm has the asphaltene in bitumen going through all the processes and transportation steps, and ends up at the back end of its journey, mostly as carbon in petroleum coke in refineries. The application of VCI technologies also eliminates the requirement of diluent, and produces a clean product that is easier to process in refineries. All of these contribute to GHG reductions.
VCI technologies open up much wider spectrum of refining markets not currently accessible by bitumen blend. Most of the world’s refineries were designed for conventional crude oils and only a limited number of refineries can process the oil sands bitumen. By transforming the bitumen into DCO, the ADC™ opens up the medium and conventional heavy crude refineries that are inaccessible by bitumen. COC™ produces COLF, a premium medium crude that can be readily processed in conventional medium crude refineries which constitute the majority of large refineries in the world. Through opening up to more local refineries, and elimination of the need for diluent, VCI technologies ease the pipeline bottleneck which is another major obstacle to the growth of oil sands industry.