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Solvent chemistry is key for cleaner oil-sands processing

By Mary Page Bailey |

Petroteq Energy Inc. (Sherman Oaks, Calif.; www.petroteq.energy) has achieved continuous operation at its oil-sands processing site in Utah, which is said to be the first commercial plant in the U.S. to extract and upgrade crude oil from U.S. oil sands. Petroteq has developed a closed-loop extraction process (diagram), known as Clean Oil Recovery Technology (CORT), which employs a proprietary low-boiling-point solvent. The solvent, which is composed of hydrophobic, hydrophilic and polycyclic hydrocarbons, can dissolve up to 99% of the oil sands’ hydrocarbon content, while also enabling operation at much milder temperatures and pressures than traditional methods for processing oil sands. “The solvent forms an azeotropic mixture, which allows for more economical solvent recovery. We can recycle up to 99% of the solvent,” explains Vladimir Podlipskiy, Petroteq Energy chief technology officer. “Furthermore, CORT can extract very small clay particles from the oil sands, which minimizes the formation of problematic clay emulsions and prevents equipment clogging,” he adds.

“The ability to recycle the solvent within the process avoids water consumption and enables a lower overall footprint, since tailing ponds are eliminated — an advantage over traditional mining technologies, which typically use extremely large volumes of water,” points out David Sealock, Petroteq chief executive officer.

After five years of scaleup work, Petroteq recently began operating two 500-bbl/d trains in Utah, producing a crude heavy oil product that meets the quality demands for diesel fractionation. “We also have a 3,000-bbl/d application approved by the Department of Oil, Gas and Mining in Utah. We hope to have that running in early 2021,” adds Sealock. In addition to processing oil sands, Sealock says that CORT can be tailored for any application that requires removal of hydrocarbons from soil. “We can extract up to 99% of hydrocarbons out of soil. For reclamation and remediation, we can clean up any soil that has been contaminated with hydrocarbons, including at old refinery locations, tailing ponds or anywhere with a massive spill,” he adds.

oil-sands processing

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