Saturday, May 18, 2013

Athabasca Bitumen and the Koch Bros' Gift to Windsor, Ontario

This might be why Alberta isn't too crazy about refining Athabasca bitumen on site and why British Columbia should reject the proposal to refine it in Kitimat.

"This" is a 3-storey high, city block sized pile of bitumen coke steadily growing ever larger across the Detroit River from Windsor's waterfront Assumption Park.   The stuff belongs to Koch Carbon, one of David and Charlie's operations of course.  In terms of emissions, even Alberta won't touch it.   That's why Koch Carbon looks to peddle the stuff overseas.

How does all this garbage get from Athabasca to Detroit?  You guessed it, via a pipeline that delivers 28,000 barrels a day of diluted bitumen, or dilbit, to Marathon Petroleum's refinery in the Motor City.

That's the contaminated petroleum coke residue from 28,000 barrels a day of Athabasca bitumen.   Enbridge is looking to move 800,000 barrels a day to Kitimat.   Imagine the mountains of petroleum coke that would scar the coast if that garbage was to be refined in Kitimat.

Fom The New York Times:

An initial refining process known as coking, which releases the oil from the tarlike bitumen in the oil sands, also leaves the petroleum coke, of which Canada has 79.8 million tons stockpiled. Some is dumped in open-pit oil sands mines and tailing ponds in Alberta. Much is just piled up there.

Detroit’s pile will not be the only one. Canada’s efforts to sell more products derived from oil sands to the United States, which include transporting it through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, have pulled more coking south to American refineries, creating more waste product here.

Here’s a little bit of Alberta,” said Brian Masse, one of Windsor’s Parliament members. “For those that thought they were immune from the oil sands and the consequences of them, we’re now seeing up front and center that we’re not.”

Coke, which is mainly carbon, is an essential ingredient in steelmaking as well as producing the electrical anodes used to make aluminum.

While there is high demand from both those industries, the small grains and high sulfur content of this petroleum coke make it largely unusable for those purposes, said Kerry Satterthwaite, a petroleum coke analyst at Roskill Information Services, a commodities analysis company based in London.

“It is worse than a byproduct,” Ms. Satterthwaite said.“It’s a waste byproduct that is costly and inconvenient to store, but effectively costs nothing to produce.”

Murray Gray, the scientific director for the Center for Oil Sands Innovation at the University of Alberta, said that about two years ago, Alberta backed away from plans to use the petroleum coke as a fuel source, partly over concerns about greenhouse-gas emissions. Some of it is burned there, however, to power coking plants.  

In a nutshell, when we export Athabasca bitumen part of the package includes super cheap and super dirty petroleum coke that can only be flogged to the sort of overseas buyers who don't have qualms about burning it.  And, naturally, it's got big appeal to Charlie and David Coke er, Koch. 

 And what about the leftover coke? The Environmental Protection Agency will no longer allow any new licenses permitting the burning of petroleum coke in the United States. But D. Mark Routt, a staff energy consultant at KBC Advanced Technologies in Houston, said that overseas companies saw it as a cheap alternative to low-grade coal. In China, it is used to generate electricity, adding to that country’s air-quality problems. There is also strong demand from India and Latin America for American petroleum coke, where it mainly fuels cement-making kilns.

“I’m not making a value statement, but it comes down to emission controls,” Mr. Routt said. “Other people don’t seem to have a problem, which is why it is going to Mexico, which is why it is going to China.”

Oh, Mr. Routt, you're making a statement all right, a clear statement about the people who are trafficking in petroleum coke and the petro-pols who would rather this little problem not be raised. 

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