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Higher volumes of heavy conventional and bitumen-based crudes are set to emerge from the Western Canada sedimentary basin (WCSB) underlying Alberta and Saskatchewan, as oil companies invest in recovery and upgrading technology, and transport infrastructure is further developed. Unfortunately, these crudes present significant refining challenges. Aside from the difficulties associated with their extraction, WCSB heavy crudes make less than ideal refinery feedstocks, which is reflected in their often heavily discounted market prices. And therein lies the opportunity.
The important question for refiners is how much of a profit is possible when the reduced cost of WCSB heavy crudes is compared to the investment in new plants and equipment; their effect on refinery operations and product yields and quality; and the increased wear and tear on process facilities throughout the refinery.
This paper casts some light on these issues by focusing on the areas within the refinery most likely to be affected by processing WCSB heavy crudes and examines some of the measures for overcoming potential problems.
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