May 2016, Vol. 243, No. 5


Williams Starts Up 2nd Canadian Off-Gas Processing Plant

Williams’ second off-gas liquids extraction plant, a key asset in the company’s Canadian midstream and petrochemical complex is up and running. The new plant boosts domestic production of feedstocks and significantly reduces emissions in the oil sands production process, while recovering valuable natural gas liquids (NGLs) and olefins.

Serving an upgrader facility north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, the plant is designed to reduce emissions of CO2 – a greenhouse gas – by an average of 200,000 tons per year and reduce emissions of SO2 – a contributor to acid rain – by an average of 2,800 ton per year.

Williams is the only company extracting and fractionating NGL/olefin mixes from oil sands upgrader off-gas. Its first plant of this kind serves the upgrader of another third-party oil sands producer. The two plants recover ethane, propane, propylene and other liquids from the upgraders’ off-gas streams. Williams then transports, fractionates and markets the products.

“This new off-gas plant at the upgrader is helping the environment and creating value from what was previously a low-value oil sands resource,” said David Chappell, president, Williams Energy Canada. “It adds to our world-class, long-life complex of assets with a highly sustainable competitive advantage in a key North American energy hub.”

The plant increases by 60% the amount of NGLs produced by Williams in Canada to about 40,000 bpd. At peak construction the project employed 1,200 workers and more than a dozen permanent staff operate the facility.

Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Parks, Shannon Phillips, who is also Alberta’s Minister Responsible for the Climate Change Office, said, “We applaud Williams Energy Canada for their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, add value to our resources and create good jobs here in Alberta. The startup of this plant is a testament to the innovation of Alberta’s energy industry.”

The Fort McKay First Nation, whose traditional land is nearby the new facility, also issued a positive statement:

“The Fort McKay First Nation appreciates that the Williams facility is expected to have a positive impact on the local air shed by reducing carbon and sulfur dioxide emissions. This will mean a healthier future for our people and for the environment. We are pleased to support companies that are putting the environment first and are respectful of our traditional lands.”

Following extraction at the upgrader, the NGL/olefins mixture will be transported by Williams’ recently extended Boreal Pipeline to Williams’ expanded Redwater Olefins Fractionator (ROF), the only olefin/paraffin fractionator in Canada. Most of the propane is expected to feed Williams’ planned propane dehydrogenation (PDH) facility near Edmonton for the manufacturing of polymer-grade propylene.

As previously announced, a private equity global petrochemical group has executed a long-term contract with Williams for 450 KTA of the propylene for polypropylene production.

“This developing complex will greatly reduce Canada’s current dependence on polypropylene imports while spurring domestic manufacturing and strengthening the region’s economy,” said Chappell.

Pioneering Emissions Reductions

The off-gas processing that Williams pioneered is designed to significantly reduce emissions at its customers’ oil sands production facilities. Williams captures and processes a rich NGL/olefins mixture that would normally be burned as fuel by the oil sands producer. The producer instead burns methane that Williams provides in exchange for the NGL/olefins mixture.

Collectively, the company’s two Canadian off-gas processing plants will eventually reduce annual CO2 emissions by more than 500,000 tons and annual SO2 emissions by 5,500 tons. The CO2 emissions reduction is equal to taking 105,000 cars off the road every year and equal to the total yearly energy needs of 45,000 homes.

According to Williams, if off-gas from all oil sands upgraders in Alberta were captured and processed, CO2 emissions would be reduced by 1 million tons each year.

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