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Development and Application of a Life Cycle-Based Model to Evaluate Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Oil Sands Upgrading Technologies

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journal contribution
posted on 14.11.2016 by Diana M. Pacheco, Joule A. Bergerson, Anton Alvarez-Majmutov, Jinwen Chen, Heather L. MacLean
A life cycle-based model, OSTUM (Oil Sands Technologies for Upgrading Model), which evaluates the energy intensity and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of current oil sands upgrading technologies, is developed. Upgrading converts oil sands bitumen into high quality synthetic crude oil (SCO), a refinery feedstock. OSTUM’s novel attributes include the following: the breadth of technologies and upgrading operations options that can be analyzed, energy intensity and GHG emissions being estimated at the process unit level, it not being dependent on a proprietary process simulator, and use of publicly available data. OSTUM is applied to a hypothetical, but realistic, upgrading operation based on delayed coking, the most common upgrading technology, resulting in emissions of 328 kg CO2e/m3 SCO. The primary contributor to upgrading emissions (45%) is the use of natural gas for hydrogen production through steam methane reforming, followed by the use of natural gas as fuel in the rest of the process units’ heaters (39%). OSTUM’s results are in agreement with those of a process simulation model developed by CanmetENERGY, other literature, and confidential data of a commercial upgrading operation. For the application of the model, emissions are found to be most sensitive to the amount of natural gas utilized as feedstock by the steam methane reformer. OSTUM is capable of evaluating the impact of different technologies, feedstock qualities, operating conditions, and fuel mixes on upgrading emissions, and its life cycle perspective allows easy incorporation of results into well-to-wheel analyses.