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SELEX-Asp: A Made-in-Alberta Solution for Decreasing Diluent Dependency

The first commercial SELEX-Asp unit, which was commissioned in 2009 with a capacity of 500 bpd. (Well Resources Inc.)

September 2017 - Previous posts highlighted how Alberta could rethink the way pipeline capacity and refinery feedstock issues are approached. It was clear that if Alberta is to maintain its long-term competitive advantage in the oil industry, it is not acceptable to continue operating under the assumption that raw bitumen export via pipeline is optimal.

The Race to Limit the Usage of Diluent

Diluent occupies close to one-third of the pipeline capacity required to move raw bitumen to market. Diluent is also often purchased at a premium at the blending site compared to its sale price at the export destination. With both factors in mind, there is a tremendous incentive for oil sands companies to curb the usage of diluent altogether. In doing so, economic benefits can be realized by:

  • Increasing effective bitumen carrying capacity in existing pipelines by a proportion equal to the decrease in diluent volume

  • Mitigating the pipeline tolls incurred on transportation of unnecessary diluent

  • Mitigating the discounts on diluent resale taken at the export destination compared to its purchase price at the blending site

Currently, a 'gold rush' is taking place in Alberta to solve this diluent problem. As it currently stands, many oil sands companies are investing large amounts of capital to develop processes that fall under a technological umbrella called ‘partial upgrading’.

Solving the Diluent Problem Head-on

Well Resources has taken a unique but simple approach to tackle the diluent problem head-on by capitalizing on more than two decades of research and development in the bitumen chemistry space. In doing so, our flagship process Selective Extraction of Asphaltenes (SELEX-Asp) was developed, which is uniquely capable of cleanly removing asphaltenes from heavy oil fractions in the form of solid granules. Asphaltenes are the heaviest components of bitumen, which drastically decrease the flow properties of crude and cause operational issues downstream.

By subjecting bitumen to the SELEX-Asp process prior to pipeline transport, not only can oil sands companies capitalize on the incremental benefits of decreased diluent usage, but additional pipeline capacity is liberated as asphaltenes no longer need to be transported.

SELEX-Asp: The Commercially Proven Solution

Well Resources' research and commercial experience has shown that, with asphaltenes effectively removed, the balance of bitumen can be subjected to conventional refinery processes. In other words, SELEX-Asp processed bitumen can be used in virtually any refinery, worldwide, without the need for high capital intensive equipment such as cokers and ebullated bed hydrocrackers.

Source: Chung K H, et al., Selective Asphaltene Removal from Heavy Oil, PTQ, 2006, Q4.

SELEX-Asp is patented, energy-efficient, safe, and cost-effective. It is technologically viable and commercially proven with 36,500 bpd of globally installed resid processing capacity. While alternative technologies in the partial upgrading space are still under development, Well Resources is proud to offer an immediate and commercial solution to Alberta’s oil sands dilemma.

About Well Resources

Well Resources is an Alberta-based technology company with local offices in Calgary and Edmonton. Its areas of focus are in the energy and life sciences sectors, where Well Resources develops and licenses green technologies that promote effective resource utilization.


What is
Well Insights?

Well Insights is a series that addresses subjects relevant to civil society, governments, and industry. The discussions focus on rethinking the way we approach difficult issues and providing transformative solutions as they all relate to the topic of effective resource utilization.

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