home » Featured » Out-of-the-box thinking combines for oil and gas solutions

Out-of-the-box thinking combines for oil and gas solutions

With a raft of solutions required for anything from oil sands tailings cleaning to pipeline security and great deal in-between there are companies working hard and often succeeding in bringing out-of-the-box thinking and technology to out-in-the-field challenges.

Necessity is the mother of all invention it is often said and for Syncrude Canada, a major player in the oil sands, the saying fits well. Syncrude and other oil sands operators for that matter have a challenge to clean up and reclaim giant toxic tailings ponds that are a by-product of their oil sands activities. This challenge is now reinforced by having to comply with stricter Alberta government regulations via the Energy Resources and Conservation Board (ERCB).

Energy companies, and Syncrude is no exception, are increasingly employing environmental technology specialists. An in-house project that has been in development for around four years was recently revealed by Syncrude. Warren Zubot and his associate Gail Buchanan have been working on the process of treating tailings water to the degree that it may support aquatic life using water from the company’s massive tailings pond at Mildred Lake, north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Syncrude says that between them, Zubot and Buchanan have over 30 years of water treatment experience and the duo have been, somewhat successfully, researching the use of coke to filter out naphthenic acids from the tailings water. “The technology is similar to that of a carbon water filter you’d have at your home. The coke acts as a filter – it cleans the water,” said Warren on the Syncrude website. “Not only does the coke remove naphthenic acids, but virtually any organic material dissolved in the tailings water, making the water colourless and practically particle free,” said Buchanan.

The team has already demonstrated how the process can support aquatic life. In May 2010, Syncrude installed an 80-gallon fish tank in its research facility in Edmonton, Alberta, and two koi carp and two goldfish were introduced into filtered process water with 15-20% of the water each week being replaced with filtered tailings water. Syncrude says that the fish have thrived over the year and have grown significantly and it is now time to take the project to the next level. “We will be doing a field pilot programme by building a containment area surrounded by dykes and filling it with a mixture of coke and tailings water,” said Warren. “The water will then flow through the bed of coke towards drains installed at the base so the water will come out the bottom. A major purpose of this pilot programme is to understand the field conditions necessary to ensure the water treatment process is operated in the most efficient manner possible.” Syncrude says that Warren has received a US patent for the technology and the company says that eventually reclaimed water could be used to fill reclamation lakes and reduce the need to take water from the Athabasca River for steam-producing purposes.

Hybrid thinking

On another continent, Africa and, more specifically, in Algeria, Spanish company Abengoa says that it has launched the first hybrid solar-gas plant in Algeria and the company’s second worldwide. The 150MW capacity plant is located in Hassi R ‘Mel. The firm says that it was responsible for engineering, design and the start-up. The plant is a combination of a natural gas “combined cycle plant with a solar field of 224 parabolic trough collectors with the capacity to produce up to 25MW of energy,” said Abengoa in a statement. The company went on to say the plant will be able to generate large-scale energy using both natural gas and solar energy and is also Algeria’s first combined cycle plant “thanks to Abengoa’s refrigeration technology using steam condensers and large ventilators that condense the water and re-inject it into the cycle.”

According to Abengoa, the plant at Hassi R ‘Mel marks the beginning of Algeria’s renewable energy programme that is designed to support energy plant installations that are fuelled by renewable energy sources. The company says that the combined plant will also generate energy and fuel savings. It calculates that the plant could reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 33,000t for each year that the plant is operational. Abengoa’s only other hybrid solar-gas plant to date is a 470MW-capacity facility located in Ain-Beni-Mathar, Morocco, that was opened in May 2011.

Pipeline security

Amidst attacks and damage, pipeline security technology is coming increasingly to the fore and Australian company Future Fibre Technologies (FFT), a specialist in fibre optic intrusion detection, said recently that it had signed a contract for an undisclosed value to protect 500km of buried pipeline in Iraq – its first in the country. Victoria-based FFT says that it will be working with in-country agent, AYA International (AYA) and will be using ZTE Corp (ZTE) as the prime contractor for pipeline security and communications, to deliver the project. FFT says that its simple and easy to use operator interface, its ability to operate in harsh environments, flexible design and local technical support via AYA all contribute to a beneficial overall solution. “With its expanding economy, there are growing trade and business opportunities in Iraq and we are very proud that a Victorian company is adding value to the future growth and development of the country,” said John Butler, Victoria’s commissioner to the Middle East and North Africa in a statement.

The tailings, the need for clean energy and pipeline security are all man-made challenges that now require smart solutions. It is encouraging that while it may be better if the challenges had not been created in the first place, private enterprise technology is finding a way to deal with them and boosting economic activity in the process. Long may that process continue.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Blogplay
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter

No Responses

Leave a Reply

Make sure you enter the * required information where indicated.

You must be logged in to post a comment.