Williams studies expansion of Canadian oil sands facilities

Williams Cos., Tulsa, is making an engineering study for possible expansion of its Canadian facilities to extract ethane from off-gas emissions associated with its oil sands production in Alberta.

Aug 17th, 2007

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Aug. 17 -- Williams Cos., Tulsa, is making an engineering study for possible expansion of its Canadian facilities to extract ethane from off-gas emissions associated with its oil sands production in Alberta.

The company recovers and purifies natural gas liquids and olefins at its Fort McMurray and Redwater oil sands production facilities in Alberta that it has operated since 2002.

It is contemplating construction of a cryogenic processing plant, addition of a de-ethanizer, and expansion of its existing fractionator at its Redwater complex north of Edmonton, Alta; and addition of a de-ethanizer to the Redwater complex. The de-ethanizer could begin operating in stages as early as 2010; the new off-gas processing plant could start up in 2012, officials said.

"As the only company with facilities in service to recover olefins and natural gas liquids from the Canadian oil sands off-gas, Williams is uniquely positioned to provide these services," said Randy Newcomer, vice-president. "Recovering rather than burning the liquids contained in the off-gas not only increases the value of the off-gas, but also results in a significant environmental benefit."

Williams's current operations at Fort McMurray and Redwater reduce emissions of carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas—in Alberta by 219,000 tons/year. It also reduces annual emissions of sulfur dioxide—a contributor to acid rain—by more than 3,200 tons.

Williams' contemplated expansion of its off-gas operations and ethane removal would further decrease emissions associated with oil sands production, officials said. The company recently signed nonbinding letters of intent specific to the expansions it will evaluate. It's evaluation of ethane-recovery facilities is the subject of such an agreement with Nova Chemicals Corp.

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