ABSTRACT

Due to the coarse nature of the slurry, slurry pipelines in oil sands experienced serious wear issues leading to high maintenance needs. Non-metallic piping components, rubber hoses and elastomer-lined pipes, have been successfully introduced to oil sands through a material evaluation program and a qualification process, contributing to extended wear life as well as safe and reliable operation of the slurry pipelines. Currently, there are more than one hundred rubber hoses and approximately 15 kilometers of elastomer-lined pipelines at Syncrude. However, through 10+ years of operational and maintenance experience with these systems, unique challenges were identified, including limited wear monitoring capability and localized liner wear issue. Combined with limited wear monitoring technologies, the current maintenance practices based on sampled data on pipe conditions could not prevent pipeline failures completely. To reinforce pipeline inspection capability, a novel wear monitoring technology based on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) was developed: this technology has been successfully deployed for rubber hoses and further development is on-going for elastomer-lined pipes. To get seamless information on pipeline conditions, different in-line inspection (ILI) technologies including a mechanical caliper tool have been under evaluation. A mismatch in internal diameter at pipe joints often caused localized liner wear, resulting in increased maintenance cost due to early retirement of non-metallic pipes. A ‘replaceable ring’ concept was developed, where the sacrificial ring can be rotated or replaced to extend the wear life of non-metallic piping components. As another approach of addressing localized liner wear, an advanced repair technology using anchors was developed: by installing anchors to the carbon steel substrate, significant improvement in adhesion could be achieved.

INTRODUCTION

Syncrude is one of the largest operators in Canada's oil sands industry, with an over 55-year history of innovation. Based in Fort McMurray, AB, Canada and with a large research and development (R&D) facility in Edmonton, AB, Canada, this joint venture company operated by Suncor Energy Inc. has pioneered many of the processes used in the industry. The production process starts with oil sands surface mining using shovels and trucks, followed by a crushing and screening process. The oil sands are then mixed with warm water to make a slurry. The slurry containing the raw oil known as bitumen is transported via pipelines to an extraction facility, where the bitumen is separated from the sand. After bitumen extraction, the remaining slurry is transported via pipelines to tailings ponds for water recycle. Due to the coarse nature of the slurry, these slurry pipelines experienced high wear, resulting in high maintenance requirements.

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