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Partial Upgrading of Athabasca Bitumen Using Thermal Cracking

Department of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Catalysts 2019, 9(5), 431;
Received: 19 April 2019 / Revised: 5 May 2019 / Accepted: 6 May 2019 / Published: 9 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fluid Catalytic Cracking)
The current industry practice is to mix bitumen with a diluent in order to reduce its viscosity before it can be pumped to refineries and upgraders. The recovery of the diluent and its recycling to the producers, on the other hand, pose major environmental and economic concerns. Hence, onsite partial upgrading of the extracted bitumen to pipeline specifications presents an attractive alternative. In this work, thermal cracking of Athabasca bitumen was carried out in an autoclave at 400 °C, 420 °C and 440 °C in presence and absence of drill cuttings catalyst. At 400 °C, despite no coke formation, the reduction in viscosity was insufficient, whereas at 440 °C, the coke yield was significant, ~20 wt.%. A balance between yield and viscosity was found at 420 °C, with 88 ± 5 wt.% liquid, ~5 wt.% coke and a liquid viscosity and °API gravity of 60 ± 20 cSt and 23 ± 3, respectively. Additionally, the sulfur content and the Conradson carbon residue were reduced by 25% and 10%, respectively. The catalytic thermal cracking at 420 °C further improved the quality of the liquid product to 40 ± 6 cSt and 25 ± 2 °API gravity, however at slightly lower liquid yield of 86 ± 6 wt.%. Both catalytic and non-catalytic cracking provide a stable liquid product, which by far exceeds pipeline standards. Although small relative to the energy required for upgrading in general, the pumping energy requirement for the partially upgraded bitumen was 3 times lower than that for diluted bitumen. Lastly, a 5-lump, 6-reaction, kinetic model developed earlier by our group successfully predicted the conversion of the bitumen to the different cuts. View Full-Text
Keywords: thermal cracking; bitumen; asphaltene; diluent; drill cuttings; partial upgrading thermal cracking; bitumen; asphaltene; diluent; drill cuttings; partial upgrading
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MDPI and ACS Style

Kaminski, T.; Husein, M.M. Partial Upgrading of Athabasca Bitumen Using Thermal Cracking. Catalysts 2019, 9, 431.

AMA Style

Kaminski T, Husein MM. Partial Upgrading of Athabasca Bitumen Using Thermal Cracking. Catalysts. 2019; 9(5):431.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Kaminski, Thomas, and Maen M. Husein. 2019. "Partial Upgrading of Athabasca Bitumen Using Thermal Cracking" Catalysts 9, no. 5: 431.

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