The Alberta government has earmarked a $440
guarantee for the private company Value Creation. The
company is planning to build a 77,500 barrels per day partial
the Heartland complex east of Edmonton.
The Alberta government's Partial Upgrading
aside up to $1 billion in financial incentives to private
interests for the construction of two to five partial upgraders.
The Value Creation plant would be the first, at an estimated
price of construction of $2 billion.
One million barrels per day of bitumen is
light synthetic crude oil in Alberta. The upgraded bitumen
40 per cent of the bitumen produced in Alberta. The remaining
amount is diluted with condensate, thus the name dilbit, and sold
to U.S. refineries without an intermediary upgrading
Upgrading bitumen to synthetic crude oil is
thing of the past because the U.S. is saturated with light oil
produced from fracking shale oil deposits. Also, technological
developments no longer make these kinds of upgraders producing
light crude on site or in close proximity to mines or drilling
Heavy oil is desirable as a source of jet fuel
other products essential for the war industries and active
military operations. This makes Alberta heavy oil in demand both
on the Gulf Coast, the major refining hub in the U.S., and in
California and Washington state. Much of the push for twinning
the Trans Mountain Pipeline from Edmonton to Vancouver comes from
the demand of the U.S. west coast refineries and U.S. military
that want heavy oil to feed the war economy and the California
car culture and U.S. air travel.
Partial upgrading of bitumen to make it flow more
easily through pipelines without diluents is being tested in
projects at various stages. At least ten different technologies
involved in this new process. The global energy oligopolies,
control oil sands projects, consider this technology important
eliminating the necessity to add diluents effectively increases
pipeline capacity by more than one-third.
Partial upgrading removes the asphaltenes, and
sulphur and heavy metals to produce a medium grade crude plus
ultra-low sulphur diesel that can be shipped without the use of
diluent. Shippers no longer have to pay pipeline tolls for the
diluent, which takes up a third of the volume in the pipeline.
Conflicting opinions abound on whether the partially upgraded oil
would fetch a higher price, what that price would be and its
The company Value Creation suggests that partial
reduces global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but no evidence
has been presented to support the assertion. Partial upgrading in
Canada would necessarily increase Canada's overall GHG
With the main aim of partial upgrading to
of bitumen to be exported by pipeline, the question arises as to
why the Alberta government calls this a form of diversification
of the economy. In effect, these pay-the-rich schemes are not
aimed at developing a new direction for the economy or dealing
the issue of taking concrete measures to reduce GHG emissions and
the use of carbon-based fuels. In effect, this partial upgrading
feeds the U.S. war economy and its active military, which are the
world's worst polluters and danger to humanity and the
1. The technology
used in the latest oil sands mines eliminates almost all water
and fine solids, which are prominent in the earlier processes.
The presence of water and fine solids made it necessary to have
an upgrader on site or very close to a mine because of
2. Oil Sands
suggests there may be no price
increase, while the University of Calgary School of Public Policy
forecasts a price increase of $13-19 a barrel.
This article was published in
Volume 49 Number 8 - March 9, 2019