James Auld, CN senior manager of product development, holds a “Canapux” filled with solidified bitumen. (CN Rail)

‘Canapux’ may be next to ease B.C.’s heavy oil shipping pressure

Polymer-packaged pucks float, plastic can be recycled

CN Rail has hired a Calgary engineering firm to take the next step in its pilot project to increase the safety of crude oil shipped by rail.

The “Canapux” project is moving to a high-volume test phase this year with a pilot plant in Calgary, CN said in a statement from its Montreal headquarters. The trademarked name refers to rectangular packages using polymer plastic to solidify and encase the heavy oil.

Calgary-based Toyo Engineering Canada has been selected to build a facility to test the product’s durability at the volume required for open rail car shipping, similar to bulk commodities like coal and petroleum coke, a byproduct of conventional heavy oil refining. The Canapux float in water and oil doesn’t leak out.

CN and other railways are facing increased demand for liquid crude oil shipments as Alberta looks for ways to move oil sands crude with pipeline projects stalled or cancelled. CN serves Prince Rupert on B.C.’s North Coast, an increasingly busy route with lumber, grain and other commodities, and is planning extended sidings and other work to handle more long freight trains.

RELATED: Oil-by-rail shipments to Washington refineries rising

RELATED: Enbridge gets $14.7 million refund in Northern Gateway cancellation

James Auld, CN senior manager of product development and project lead for the “Canapux” project, said the test of bulk shipping is to show that the polymer product can handle high-speed, high-volume handling.

“Then it’s up to the industry to adopt the product, and we’ll be standing by to move as many carloads as we possibly can,” Auld said.

The process starts with blending polymer with the oil, then encasing it in containers of the same plastic, which can be extracted and reused.

An earlier technology tested at the University of Calgary made pellets out of bitumen by extracting the lighter petroleum. The so-called “neatbit” process reverses the industry standard technique of adding diluent, a liquid byproduct from natural gas wells, that allows heavy oil to be shipped in pipelines or conventional rail tankers.

While the pellets on their own can be used to make asphalt pavement, lighter petroleum would have to be shipped in and added in order to feed a heavy oil refinery.

Alberta already has four refineries and four upgraders to process bitumen, and Premier Rachel Notley has issued an invitation for proposals to build more. Notley has also announced plans for Alberta to buy more conventional oil tanker cars, as court disputes grind on over the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline from Alberta to its only shipping terminal at Burnaby.

RELATED: Alberta buying rail cars to move more oil, without Ottawa

RELATED: Alberta refinery request prompts renewed interest in Kitimat

Black Press publisher David Black wrote to Notley this month to pitch his Kitimat Clean project, arguing that only a coastal refinery is a viable way to add to the province’s capacity to export refined fuels.

“Unfortunately the refinery cannot be located inland,” wrote Black, who has developed a new generation refinery design that could be supplied with heavy crude by rail or pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands. “The capital cost to build a large, brand-new refinery inland is so high that it is never economically viable. That is why all major export refineries in the world are located on an ocean coast.”

Machinery modules are being imported from Asia to build the LNG Canada processing facility at Kitimat, and a similar approach is taken for new oil refineries around the world.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureoil-by-railTrans Mountain pipeline

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jacob Koomen takes his bike out for a spin near his home in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Campbell Riverite to cycle length of Island to raise funds for cancer research

Long distance rides are no big deal for 73-year-old cyclist

Comox Strathcona Waste Management expects to go to tender this summer for the regional organics compost facility in Campbell River. File photo/Black Press
Comox Strathcona compost site should go to tender this summer

The regional organics facility is on target to open for the fall of 2022

WestJet in flight. Black Press file photo
Two COVID exposures on WestJet flight into Comox

The BC Centre for Disease Control has posted advisories for two separate… Continue reading

Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Busy day for Campbell River fire crews

Three incidents in rapid succession keep crews on their toes

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Sean Hart, 34, unexpectedly left the Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health Facility in Saanich on Nov. 6, 2020 and has now been missing for six months. (Photo courtesy Penny Hart)
Mom still hopeful for Island man who left care six months ago, hasn’t been seen since

Support from community, police keeps search alive for Sean Hart six months after his disappearance

A map of Huu-ay-aht-owned forestry cutblock. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
B.C. First Nations restrict access to territory in wake of forestry standoffs

Huu-ay-aht set up checkpoints after heated and dangerous incidents on southwest Vancouver Island

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Most Read