FluidOil acquired the Intellectual Property rights of a patented
process known as HTL from Ivanhoe Energy Inc, a Canadian
company. Ivanhoe was commercialising the HTL technology which incorporated
Ensyns RPT© reactor technology.
The technology was studied extensively during
early pilot plant work and then validated by successful operation of a 1,000
bpd Commercial Demonstration Facility (CDF) in Bakersfield, California.
of heavy crude oils in the CDF proved the scalability of the HTL process and
provided key design information for the first commercial basic engineering
design package (BEDP) and front-end engineering design (FEED) of FluidOil's initial projects, including a large SAGD project in Alberta, Canada.
Independently, FluidOil developed a proprietary upgrading technology call Viscositor.
Viscositor was based around a simplified version of Fluidised Catalytic Cracking technology (FCC), with the key differences being lower reaction temperatures, lower atmospheric pressure and the use of readily available sand instead of expensive catalysts.
The Viscositor reactor promotes three key reactions: thermal cracking, mechanical cracking and hydrogenation. The difference to HTL being the hydrogenation reaction and far greater mechanical cracking.
The development was completed in Norway with SINTEF, a leading independent research organisation.
Viscositor Heavy-to-Light (VHTL)
FluidOil has successfully combined these
two technologies into VHTL. The technlogy takes
the extensivly engineered mechanical systems of HTL and replaces the RPT©
reactor technology with a Viscositor reactor.
This is a simple conversion and allows
the three Viscositor reactions to be incorporated into the HTL process. The result is a core
technology based on Viscositor, with the mechanical and ancillary systems being
FluidOil Limited successfully tested the combined
technology on its V25 Pilot plant in Coryton, London. These tests demonstrated that the core
elements of VHTL worked as expected, with the results consistent with those seen on the original Viscositor technology.
In January 2017, further testing on the combined VHTL technology started at FluidOil’s Feedstock Test Facility (FTF) at the Southwest
Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. Tests are designed to further improve the VHTL process for a range of heavy oil feedstocks.
The FTF is designed to model and mimic the
commercial VHTL process, but at a reduced capacity, making it feasible to rapidly test smaller
batches of heavy crude oils.
It is equipped with a state of the art
process control and measurement system that maximizes quality of data
collected, validates technological advancements made to the VHTL process, and
supplies critical data to be used for commercial design.
Testing programmes in the FTF
are being used to prove the capability of VHTL to upgrade a variety of global crude
oils and to mitigate many of the key process performance risks associated
with building a commercial-scale plant.
data from development and testing will be used to produce
commercial designs including a full FEED package for Tamarack in the Alberta
oil sands and a BEDP for Dos Bocas in Mexico.
Below is a 3D rendering of the
20,000 bpd Tamarack VHTL plant obtained from the detailed 3D model developed
A feasibility study has also
been completed for an offshore facility in the PEMEX Ayatsil field in the Gulf
of Mexico and as shown in the 3D rendering below:
Implementing VHTL in remote locations is a key component of FluidOil's business
strategy, and modularisation is a critical element and is fully incorporated into
the cost estimate and the design plan for all VHTL projects.
As examples, a 20,000 bpd VHTL
plant can be fabricated from 65 modules weighing 150 tonnes each. These modules
can be transported by truck to remote locations for hook-up and completion.
Alternatively, the plant could be constructed in five 2,000 tonne
“super-modules” at coastal fabrication yards and carried offshore.