James Auld, CN senior manager of product development, holds a “Canapux” filled with solidified bitumen. (CN Rail)

‘Canapux’ may be next to ease B.C.’s heavy oil shipping pressure

Polymer-packaged pucks float, plastic can be recycled

CN Rail has hired a Calgary engineering firm to take the next step in its pilot project to increase the safety of crude oil shipped by rail.

The “Canapux” project is moving to a high-volume test phase this year with a pilot plant in Calgary, CN said in a statement from its Montreal headquarters. The trademarked name refers to rectangular packages using polymer plastic to solidify and encase the heavy oil.

Calgary-based Toyo Engineering Canada has been selected to build a facility to test the product’s durability at the volume required for open rail car shipping, similar to bulk commodities like coal and petroleum coke, a byproduct of conventional heavy oil refining. The Canapux float in water and oil doesn’t leak out.

CN and other railways are facing increased demand for liquid crude oil shipments as Alberta looks for ways to move oil sands crude with pipeline projects stalled or cancelled. CN serves Prince Rupert on B.C.’s North Coast, an increasingly busy route with lumber, grain and other commodities, and is planning extended sidings and other work to handle more long freight trains.

RELATED: Oil-by-rail shipments to Washington refineries rising

RELATED: Enbridge gets $14.7 million refund in Northern Gateway cancellation

James Auld, CN senior manager of product development and project lead for the “Canapux” project, said the test of bulk shipping is to show that the polymer product can handle high-speed, high-volume handling.

“Then it’s up to the industry to adopt the product, and we’ll be standing by to move as many carloads as we possibly can,” Auld said.

The process starts with blending polymer with the oil, then encasing it in containers of the same plastic, which can be extracted and reused.

An earlier technology tested at the University of Calgary made pellets out of bitumen by extracting the lighter petroleum. The so-called “neatbit” process reverses the industry standard technique of adding diluent, a liquid byproduct from natural gas wells, that allows heavy oil to be shipped in pipelines or conventional rail tankers.

While the pellets on their own can be used to make asphalt pavement, lighter petroleum would have to be shipped in and added in order to feed a heavy oil refinery.

Alberta already has four refineries and four upgraders to process bitumen, and Premier Rachel Notley has issued an invitation for proposals to build more. Notley has also announced plans for Alberta to buy more conventional oil tanker cars, as court disputes grind on over the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline from Alberta to its only shipping terminal at Burnaby.

RELATED: Alberta buying rail cars to move more oil, without Ottawa

RELATED: Alberta refinery request prompts renewed interest in Kitimat

Black Press publisher David Black wrote to Notley this month to pitch his Kitimat Clean project, arguing that only a coastal refinery is a viable way to add to the province’s capacity to export refined fuels.

“Unfortunately the refinery cannot be located inland,” wrote Black, who has developed a new generation refinery design that could be supplied with heavy crude by rail or pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands. “The capital cost to build a large, brand-new refinery inland is so high that it is never economically viable. That is why all major export refineries in the world are located on an ocean coast.”

Machinery modules are being imported from Asia to build the LNG Canada processing facility at Kitimat, and a similar approach is taken for new oil refineries around the world.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureoil-by-railTrans Mountain pipeline

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo, Royal Jubilee to be Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 frontline hospitals

Other Island hospitals will be admitting COVID-19 patients and will be used in a support role

Port Hardy’s annual summer festival FILOMI Days cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

Port Hardy’s biggest community celebration happens every year from July 17 to 19.

Reflecting on life during a pandemic

‘This is really a once in a lifetime moment where everything has come to a grinding halt’

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

Here’s how to talk to people who aren’t taking physical distancing seriously

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

75-year-old woman rescued from Cowichan Lake

Victim taken to hospital, but expected to recover

Not to become bored the game plan for COVID-19

Board game with an Island map developed by Island family just the remedy for filling time at home

As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

UPDATE: UK PM Boris Johnson moved to intensive care after COVID-19 symptoms worse

He has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26

Travellers, travel agents ‘in agony’ over refund policies and customer service

Many Canadian carriers are offering customers flights rebookings or travel vouchers — but not refunds

Introverted and extroverted kids likely to react differently to COVID-19 restrictions

B.C. child psychologist says your parenting approach can’t be one-size fits all in social isolation

Most Read