Canada's largest railroad believes that "CanaPux" could be a watershed for the country's oil industry.
CanaPux, developed by the Canadian National Railway, is essentially crude oil mixed with a polymer and encased in the same polymer. The result is a solid disk-like product that CN Rail believes will mitigate the risks associated with rail-based oil transportation while at the same time opening the product to the global market and reducing shipping costs.
Canapux would be shipped as a solid product. When it reaches its destination, it can be processed and restored to a traditional crude oil.
A recent IAEE Energy Forum report indicates that oil spills along the railroad are three times more likely than a pipeline spill, but James Cairns, vice president of Oil & Chemicals at the Canadian National Railway , told Your Vapour the CanaPux of CTV. limit the damage of any potential oil spill.
"They do not burn, they do not ignite, they do not create dust, they do not seep or dissolve in the environment, and the best part of CanaPux is that they float in the water," he said.
Pucks can also be transported on gondola cars, which are lighter than tank cars and make transportation more accessible.
Cairns says that one of the biggest problems of the Canadian oil industry is that under the current rail and pipeline system, most sales are to the United States.
"CanaPux allows us to get water and export our crude oil to Asia," he said.
Cairns expects to have the first pilot plant up and running in the next 18 to 24 months.
This happens at the same time as the Canadian oil industry is increasing its dependence on the rail system. According to the National Energy Council, 134,132 barrels of crude oil were shipped through the rail system in September 2017, compared with 269,829 a year thereafter.
To help with the delay, the Alberta government is planning to buy two new tanker trains.