Sustainable development of Alberta’s vast oil sands is a key priority, and in early 2013 construction began on the world’s first refinery specifically designed to reduce environmental impacts as it turns tarry bitumen crude into clean-burning diesel fuel. GE’s Power Conversion business (NYSE: GE) is playing an enabling role in the refinery, near Edmonton and owned by the North West Redwater Partnership, by supplying GE’s Series 9000-RCM large electric motors to drive the refinery’s reciprocating compressors, under a $14 million contract that includes related services.
The partnership is a joint venture between North West Upgrading Inc. and Canadian Natural Resources Limited. The 150,000 barrels-per-day bitumen refinery will be the first to incorporate an integrated CO2 management system, setting an international precedent for responsible development. In the first of three phases, by 2015 it is expected to begin producing clean diesel fuel with fewer emissions and up to 30 percent higher fuel efficiency than gasoline, exceeding Canadian standards and meeting global specifications. There is strong demand for clean diesel in North America, China, Southeast Asia and elsewhere. In Canada, for example, diesel is available nationwide at gasoline filling stations and at comparable prices.
Transporting and processing crude bitumen, or heavy crude oil, extracted from oil sands is challenging and expensive because it is a tarry, sludgy solid or semisolid that doesn’t flow easily at normal oil pipeline temperatures. Reciprocating compressors are used to handle hydrogen, which is used to process the bitumen, because they offer extremely high compression ratios. GE’s powerful and rugged Series 9000-RCM motors are built to drive reciprocating compressors in the petrochemical industry, with ratings up to 13.8 kV and up to 22,000 HP (16,000 kW). Besides raw power and reliable performance, they offer fast installation/start up and ease of maintenance, helping to minimize delays and maximize capital resources.
“Refineries are complex and expensive undertakings and so a key priority for their owners is to minimize risk and maximize investment return,” said Alberto Peluzzo, sales leader for Power Conversion Rotating Machines. “GE’s Series 9000-RCM motors are seeing increased use throughout Canada’s oil sands region because of their proven, reliable performance. Along with GE’s expert technical services, they will help enable the North West Redwater Partnership to achieve world-class operational performance and efficiencies at this landmark refinery.”