Emerson Process Management (www.emersonprocess.com) won a contract to digitally automate an oil sands bitumen upgrader facility to be constructed by North West Upgrading 28 miles northeast of Edmonton, Alberta in the Industrial Heartland area of Sturgeon County.

The upgrader will process bitumen, a molasses-like viscous oil, into light, low-sulphur products, such as diluents and ultra-low sulphur diesel, as well as other products that can be used by refineries to produce gasoline. Under the contract, Emerson will provide digital automation services and install its PlantWeb digital architecture that networks intelligent digital technology throughout processing facilities.

The $2.6 billion North West Upgrader project will be constructed in three phases. The first phase of the project is complete. Construction — the second phase of the project — is to begin in late 2007. The facility will process 77,000 barrels of bitumen blend per day and is expected to be operational in 2010. When the entire facility is completed in 2015, the upgrader will have a total processing capacity of 231,000 barrels per day. The bitumen, blended with a light liquid condensate, will be transported to the upgrader via pipelines from the oil sands region of northern Alberta.

Finding ways to reduce the high cost of both construction and oil sands processing is a key objective of project planners. By standardizing on Emerson’s PlantWeb technology, the upgrader expects to achieve a consistent and durable process. The technology will be an important factor in reducing costs while supporting plant reliability and productivity, according to North West.

North West is relying on Emerson to supply the full scope of automation products and services through its local business partner Spartan Controls Ltd. and Emerson’s Hydrocarbon and Energy Industry Center in Calgary. This team is currently developing plant-wide automation standards to ensure that individual process units integrate smoothly into the overall upgrading process.

Emerson will supply engineering and project management throughout the three phases of construction, hands-on commissioning of automation products and systems, and ongoing service support.