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Natural gas straddle plant designed to reduce oilsands emissions with cleaner fuel


CALGARY — In the latest project designed to green the oilsands industry, Wolf Midstream says it will build a facility to strip petroleum liquids from natural gas used in operations near Fort McMurray, Alta., leaving a purer fuel that will burn with fewer carbon emissions.

The company says its NGL North project is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from oilsands projects in the Christina Lake area by over 200,000 tonnes per year by removing liquids such as ethane, propane, butane and condensate from natural gas, leaving primarily methane.

The liquids would then be shipped on an unused third line in Wolf's three-pipe Access Pipeline to the Edmonton area to be separated and sold to petrochemical industry buyers, with the capacity to produce up to 70,000 barrels per day.

According to the Canada Energy Regulator, about 30 per cent of the natural gas produced in Canada in 2018 was consumed in oilsands production to generate steam needed for thermal bitumen production from wells and in separating sand from oil and upgrading bitumen at oilsands mines.

Bob Lock, president of Wolf's pipelines unit, says the project has become more financially attractive over the past 10 years as the amount of natural gas consumed in the oilsands rose by about a quarter to about 2.5 billion cubic feet per day.

The company declined to provide a cost for the project which is expected to be in service in 2023.

"The NGL North system will recover higher carbon product otherwise used for combustion with higher associated emissions and separate the recovered NGL into essential building blocks for products that enable modern living," Wolf CEO Gordon Salahor said.

"Once operational, NGL North will contribute to reducing CO2 emissions for the oilsands industry, which is consistent with Wolf's investment strategy to develop assets that are positioned for energy transition."

Wolf Midstream is a private Calgary company created in 2016 and backed by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. It operates the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line, which captures CO2 from industrial sites in central Alberta and uses them to enhance oil recovery.  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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