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

‘Not a joke’: Promoter wants to rocket-launch man the length of White Rock pier

Brooke Colby says he’s building an eight-foot rocket in his backyard

Missing North Delta senior found deceased

88-year-old Jarnial Sanghera had been missing since the morning of Friday, May 15

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Dry-grad cancelled, Elgin Park students make donation to food bank

Students donate $1,800 to food bank after being forced to cancel graduation event

Prospera Credit Union, Westminster Savings lay off over 100 staff following historic merge

2020 merger was largest credit-union merger in Canadian history

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

Boy, 2, left with ‘soft tissue injuries’ after being hit by car in Squamish intersection

Boy was release from hospital, police continue to investigate

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Most Read