Sturgeon Refinery

The Sturgeon Refinery: An Environmental World First!

By Doug Bertsch, Vice President - Regulatory & Stakeholder Affairs
March 3, 2015

The NWR Sturgeon Refinery is not just the first refinery built in Canada in more than 3 decades; it is the first in the world to combine this suite of technologies, resulting in environmental gold standard performance. The refinery features; CO2 capture designed in from the ground-up; minimized water use through maximized air cooling and leading technologies to maximize water recycle; sulphur recovery exceeding AER Directive 2001-03; use of LED lighting throughout to reduce energy consumption; and many other initiatives demonstrating leading environmental responsibility.

The Sturgeon Refinery is designed to use a Gasifier Unit to convert the heaviest ‘bottom of the barrel’ hydrocarbons into valuable hydrogen, which is necessary for refining bitumen into high value diesel fuel. This process reduces waste, increases production yield, and results in the production of high purity, capture-ready CO2. The 3,500 tonnes/day of CO2 captured during Phase 1 operation will be equivalent to taking 300,000 cars off the road annually! The fuel produced will meet ultra low sulphur, low carbon fuel standards for Alberta and world markets. In addition to this significant reduction in the emission of greenhouse gas, prior to sequestration, the CO2 will be used for Enhanced Oil Recovery, revitalizing depleted oilfields in Alberta and improving Alberta’s economic fortunes.

Process water use has been minimized through the use of leading water treatment technologies. NWR will capture precipitation falling on the Project site, treat it for process use and thus reduce the amount of water drawn from the North Saskatchewan River (NSR). Water treatment technologies have been selected to allow a high degree of recycle within the process, further reducing the use of raw water from the NSR.

With the technology chosen by NWR for the manufacture of its ultra low sulphur fuel, the Sturgeon Refinery will recover sulphur from the incoming feedstock at the highest percentage recognized under the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) Directive ID 2001-03. This recovery efficiency exceeds that required for a facility of this type, but respects the future air quality expectations for the Heartland area.The use of LED lighting over conventional lighting methods, along with diligent 3D modelling to determine lighting locations is estimated to reduce lighting power usage by 80%! This and other lighting initiatives also reduce ‘light pollution’, preserving the dark night sky that the Heartland’s rural residents enjoy.

These and other environmental initiatives such as wetland loss compensation, preservation of wildlife corridors, on-site programs for reduction and recycling of waste materials all contribute to the construction and future operation of a facility that all of us can be proud of, and fulfilling the mission and values of NWR.