BA Energy builds oil sands upgrader with Matrikon Suite

June 18, 2007
The Heartland Upgrader Project (HUP) is scheduled to start operating in the last half of 2008, and will be the first of six upgraders BA Energy has planned for the Edmonton area.

Cleaning oil sands isn’t easy or cheap. So finding a new upgrading process that’s half as expensive is really good news. The bad news is that you now have to design and build a company and a plant to do it.

This has been BA Energy’s challenge as it works to build its first Heartland Upgrader oil sands facility in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. BA Energy is owned by Value Creation Inc. (VCI), which developed its new upgrading process that has capital and energy costs that are reportedly half as much as traditional oil sands upgrading expenses. That’s fortunate because VCI also holds 365 square miles of oil sands leases, that are estimated to hold up to 8 billion barrels of recoverable bitumen.

To commercialize VCI’s process, BA Energy is now building its new plant outside of Edmonton. The Heartland Upgrader Project (HUP) is scheduled to start operating in the last half of 2008, and will be the first of six upgraders BA Energy has planned for the Edmonton area. This first upgrader is presently permitted to produce approximately 260,000 barrels per day through 2012.

“We have two basic tasks. To build a bitumen heavy-oil upgrader and build a new company,” says Kevin Melnyk, general manager at BA Energy’s Heartland Upgrader, at the Matrikon Summit 2007 conference at Marriott Lincolnshire Resort near Chicago.

To tackle these goals, BA Energy organized an Operations Resource Planning Committee to define the new firm’s business processes and those that would be used at the upgrader plant. Defining these processes, in turn, helped BA Energy to design its new systems and select the best tools to support them. The committee and BA’s other organizers tied all the applicable stakeholders together, so the new firm could have proactive, real-time decision making and convert its internal and external interactions, so its applications could be scalable and better fits its overall business purposes. “This isn’t ERP,” says Melnyk. “In fact, I have a nightmare in which I wake up and find that SAP has developed a DCS.”

As a result, BA Energy enlisted Matrikon to help with a variety of functions and projects on which the Heartland Upgrader is going to be founded. These functions include alarm and labs information management, and the projects include integrating with the firm’s other systems, including Exaquantum DCS, Maximo and SAP. Matrikon provides functional elements that integrate the facility’s information architecture to provide a scalable, asset-based application suite that supports the needs and challenges of the business.

“Matrikon Suite does a lot more than yield accounting,” adds Melnyk. “The main thing is you want to have a safe plant. We’re using Matrikon Suite to get the many documents we need to do it. These days, you can’t run a plant safety or legally without a system like this in place.”

Three or four months into its HUP project, Melnyk adds that BA Energy was identifying the risk and probability of failure of each component and system it was considering, so it could also develop maintenance, inventory purchasing and reliability inspection plans. “We now have the ability to capture the information we need, and see what’s most important,” adds Melnyk. “Matrikon Suite allows integration by configuration rather than customization. It’s scalable, and so we think it’s going to be a one-stop shop for most users.”