Alberta's oil sands plants can be an abundant source of petrochemical feedstocks, potentially capable of supporting new world-scale plants producing ethylene, propylene, benzene, para-xylene, and other high-valueadded derivatives. These products can be produced by integrating existing and new oil sands upgrading plants, refineries and petrochemical plants using proven technologies and emerging technologies that can be commercialized within the next 5 to 10 years. The paper describes the results of a joint industry/government study that identify viable integration schemes for producing petrochemicals from oil sands, which if implemented, could lead to major long-term industrial development in Alberta and provide significant sustainable wealth to the province. Using Alberta Industrial Heartland's chemical complexes and infrastructure as a model, the study shows that a practical three-stage integration plan is both technically and economically feasible, assuming new product pipelines from Northern oil sands plants to Edmonton and from Edmonton to Vancouver. Technology gaps, requiring further research development and demonstration have been identified. Strong Alberta based collaborative Research and Development and Demonstration support will be essential. Key factors necessary for successful integration include commitment by different levels of government and industry to a common vision and a long-term strategic plan to facilitate profitable integration of the different complexes and infrastructure.


This study set out to identify opportunities for the synergistic development of oil sands and petrochemical industries through cost effective integration of oil sands, upgrading, refining and petrochemical developments in the 2005 to 2020 time frame. Alberta's petrochemical industry developed rapidly during the 1980 and 90's based on abundant supply of low cost ethane from Natural Gas Liquids (NGL's). New high pressure "wet gas" pipelines, high natural gas prices and projected diminishing gas production from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin raise concerns about sustainable supplies of competitively priced NGL feedstocks essential for the future growth of Alberta's petrochemical industry. Consequently a major consideration for the study was to evaluate new feedstocks from Alberta's vast oil sands resources to supplement NGL's from Alberta and new Northern gas developments. This concept of supplementing and diversifying petrochemical feedstocks is illustrated in fig.1. Having both gas and oil sands feedstock options should increase the long term competitiveness of Alberta's petrochemical industry. In addition, co-production of fuels and petrochemicals creates higher value products and new markets for oil sands plants. Appropriate research and development to support such development were identified

Project Definition

In this joint industry-government study, Industry was represented by NOVA Chemicals, Shell Chemicals, and Suncor Energy and Government by AERI, Alberta Economic Development and Alberta Energy. Workshops were used to assess the knowledge gaps between the current state and the desired future state. Objectives were developed to bridge the gaps. The vision from the workshops was then used to provide the necessary direction and framework for the petrochemicals from oil sands case study.

Alberta's Industrial Heartland with its established infrastructure was selected as the geographical region for the conceptual integrated oil sands- petrochemical complex.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.