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Analyzing the energy intensity and greenhouse gas emission of Canadian oil sands crude upgrading through process modeling and simulation


This paper presents an evaluation of the energy intensity and related greenhouse gas/CO2 emissions of integrated oil sands crude upgrading processes. Two major oil sands crude upgrading schemes currently used in Canadian oil sands operations were investigated: cokingbased and hydroconversion-based. The analysis, which was based on a robust process model of the entire process, was constructed in Aspen HYSYS and calibrated with representative data. Simulations were conducted for the two upgrading schemes in order to generate a detailed inventory of the required energy and utility inputs: process fuel, steam, hydrogen and power. It was concluded that while hydroconversion-based scheme yields considerably higher amount of synthetic crude oil (SCO) than the cokerbased scheme (94 wt-% vs. 76 wt-%), it consumes more energy and is therefore more CO2-intensive (413.2 kg CO2/m3 SCO vs. 216.4 kg CO2/m3 SCO). This substantial difference results from the large amount of hydrogen consumed in the ebullated-bed hydroconverter in the hydroconversion-based scheme, as hydrogen production through conventional methane steam reforming is highly energy-intensive and therefore the major source of CO2 emission. Further simulations indicated that optimization of hydroconverter operating variables had only a minor effect on the overall CO2 emission due to the complex trade-off effect between energy inputs.

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Correspondence to Jinwen Chen.

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Alvarez-Majmutov, A., Chen, J. Analyzing the energy intensity and greenhouse gas emission of Canadian oil sands crude upgrading through process modeling and simulation. Front. Chem. Sci. Eng. 8, 212–218 (2014).

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  • Oil sands crude upgrading
  • hydroconversion
  • process modeling
  • greenhouse gas emissions