Bitumen Technology

 How is bitumen processed into oil?

Trucks deliver ore from the mine to a crusher. Hot water and chemicals like sodium hydroxide are added to help separate bitumen from sand grains. This slurry is then pumped to an extraction plant where large sand particles quickly settle out, and frothy bitumen is removed. Water that remains is flushed into tailings ponds. Years pass before fine sediments settle to the bottom.
Bitumen is an energy source which must be further upgraded into synthetic crude oil if it is to be a usable petroleum product. Compared to conventional oil, bitumen molecules are huge, with a lot of sulphur and not enough hydrogen. During primary upgrading, polyaromatic hydrocarbons are cooked at about 500oC, breaking them into smaller, less viscous molecules with a better hydrogen-to-carbon ratio. Hydrogen gas is used during secondary upgrading to remove sulphur which must currently be stockpiled, awaiting new markets.

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