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The way we transport crude oil could be about to change forever

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Due to a mistake in a lab, a professor from the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering may have accidentally transformed the way the Oil & Gas industry transports crude oil.
Ian Gates, a Professor at the University of Calgary's Schulich School of Engineering, is the man behind this new innovation
(Image via University of Calgary).

Ian Gates was researching methods to upgrade bitumen- the blend of hydrocarbons left as a residue after petroleum distillation- when he accidentally degraded it instead, creating a viscous form of bitumen that could be transported in self-sealing pellets.

These self-sealing balls of bitumen represent a game-changing breakthrough as the pill-sized pellets, with their liquid core and super-viscous skin, will vastly reduce the chances of a damaging spill or environmental accident.

According to Gates and his team, the pellets will be able to be made into various sizes at the wellhead using the same amount of energy needed to add diluent to bitumen to liquefy it for pipeline transport. In addition, a gas bubble can be injected into the middle of each ball to give them buoyancy.
The new bitumen pellets feature a liquid core with a super-viscous skin, making them easy to transport with less chance of environmental accidents occuring
(Image via Innovate Calgary).

When the pellets arrive at their destination, they can be rendered back to bitumen using a light oil produced as a side-product during the pellet’s creation process.

And here lies the true breakthrough that these pellets represent. Rather than having to rely on pipelines to transport crude oil, the Oil industry will be able to utilise rail to transport vast amounts of oil. Gates hopes that old, idle railcars formerly used for coal can be brought back into service to transport his new pellets.

The innovation has already gained interest form major players within the Northern American energy industry, and it is expected that by November the pellets will be produced by the barrel. Then, during the following 12 months, it is expected that several hundred barrels per day will be in production.

If you’re looking to secure the best engineering talent for your Oil & Gas business, speak to Fircroft today.
Tags: Oil & Gas
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The way we transport crude oil could be about to change forever - Time to read 2 min
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