Canada oil sands sulphur output set for investment increase

17 June 2011 11:23  [Source: ICIS news]

SHANGHAI (ICIS)--Sulphur recovered from oil sands mining in Canada is set to increase in the run-up to 2015 due to investment increases, a Canadian government ministry told the sulphur and sulphuric acid industry at a conference in Shanghai on Friday.

Speaking at the China International Sulphur & Sulphuric Acid Conference 2011 (15-17 June), Kevin Stone, senior commodity analyst at Natural Resources Canada, said that sulphur recovered from oil sands projects would not increase as quickly as previously forecast, but will pick up by 2015.

The industry is expected to benefit from increased investment from the Alberta government. The government’s total investment was estimated at $13bn (€9.2bn) in 2010 and is expected to rise to $15bn in 2011, Stone said.

Oil sands project development has been slow in recent years, largely because of uncertainties in the environmental performance of the industry, he also said.

Canada is a net sulphur exporter and delivered 5.81m tonnes in 2010, according to data released by the International Fertilizer Industry Association.

The country recovers sulphur from natural gas, oil refining and oil sands. While recovery from oil refineries is likely to see a slight increase in the coming years, recovery from natural gas is expected to decline due to diminishing sour gas reserves.

As a result, the development of oil sands projects will be important to Canada’s future sulphur production and exports. It is also expected to offset declines in recovery from natural gas, Stone said.

Canada’s proved oil reserves are abundant, totalling 175bn barrels in 2011, according to US Energy Information Administration data. Of this, around 170bn barrels can be recovered from oil sands.

In 2010, around 1.73m tonnes of sulphur were recovered from oil sands, according to Natural Resources Canada.

In previous years, most sulphur recovered from oil sands mining was blocked, with a majority located in Fort McMurray, Alberta. However in recent years, more stocks have been trucked to Lynton, which is close to Fort McMurray, and then railed to Edmonton for sales to the US or west coast ports for export.

“Given current demand and market prices, it is possible to see more sulphur being sold out of oil sands operations than being blocked,” Stone said.

Sulphur is recovered from crude bitumen, which is a product of oil sands mining. By upgrading one million barrels of crude bitumen into synthetic crude oil, around 6,400-6,500 tonnes of sulphur can be recovered.

($1 = €0.71)

For more on sulphur, visit ICIS pricing fertilizers

By: Freda Gordon
44 208 652 3214

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