Cleaver-Brooks - Complete Boiler Room Solutions

Cleaver-Brooks Engineers FC-OSSG for Alberta Oil Sands

Steam in Ground Achieved Ahead of Schedule and Under Budget

Case Study

  • Company: Oil Sands
  • Industry: Energy and Petochemical
  • Location: Ft. McMurray, Alberta, Canada
  • Profile: A leading oil producer in Alberta dedicated to developing the Oil Sands responsibly.
  • Challenge: Utilize a steam-generating product that meets the goals of water conservation and ease of cleaning in a high-pressure application.
  • Solution: Install five newly developed FC-OSSGs that can produce nearly 100% quality steam with less than 2% blowdown (like a drum boiler) and be “pigged” (like an OTSG).
  • Results: FC-OSSGs met predicted performance parameters, including steam flow, efficiency and emissions guarantees at high fire. Achieved injection ahead of schedule and under budget. • Qty: 5 boilers • 365,000 lb/hr each • 1,450 psig saturated • 400 MMBTU/hr input each • 99.5% steam quality • U.S. Patent

When a leading oil producer received approval on its in-situ Oil Sands expansion project in the Alberta Oil Sands, the company aggressively pursued new technology for its steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) project. Working with Tundra Process Solutions in Calgary, Canada, the oil company enlisted the R&D department of Cleaver-Brooks in 2009 to develop a new type of steam generator for the Oil Sands that would utilize environmentally friendly evaporator technology at high pressure and be easy to maintain. 

Due to stricter environmental regulations in Alberta, oil companies have been using evaporator technology as opposed to the traditional warm lime-softening process to conserve water, which is as precious a resource as oil. Evaporator technology conserves water by evaporating the clarified water out and then condensing it back to produce boiler feedwater. Evaporator water can be run through a Once-Through Steam Generator (OTSG), but this technology involves frequent maintenance and cleaning that is costly, contributes to boiler downtime and wastes a lot of water. Evaporator technology can also be run through a watertube (or drum) boiler, but only safely at medium pressure.

Cleaver-Brooks developed the Forced-Circulation Oil Sands Steam Generator (FC-OSSG) to meet the unique needs for SAGD. The FC-OSSG combines the benefits of an industrial watertube drum-type boiler with the benefits of an OTSG with regard to steam pressure, blowdown, steam purity and maintenance, among other things. An FC-OSSG is capable of producing nearly 100% quality steam with less than 2% blowdown like a drum boiler, while retaining the ability to be mechanically cleaned or “pigged” like a traditional OTSG. 

The FC-OSSG system pumps 100% water, and by weight 20% converts to steam, which results in a maximum steam content of 20% in heat-absorbing tubes. By comparison, the OTSG operates with a maximum steam content of 80% in the heat-absorbing tubes, which means 80% of the water evaporates into steam. Operating with lower steam content (more water content) in the heat-absorbing tubes allows for lower concentration of impurities in the water as well as more predictable metal temperatures. As a result, the rate of failure and frequency of cleaning in an FC-OSSG is less compared to an OTSG.  

Recognizing the many benefits of the FC-OSSG technology, the oil company ordered five units, each rated at 365,000 lb/hr steam flow, which shipped individually over a period of six months. The modular units were shop-assembled, insulated and lagged at the Cleaver-Brooks factory to decrease installation time and minimize labor costs in the field. Tundra Process Solutions, the Cleaver-Brooks authorized representative in Alberta, worked with the customer throughout the project from start to finish. Their personnel in Fort McMurray assisted with installation and commissioning activities. The project was substantially completed within a year. 

Injection was achieved two months ahead of the originally targeted steam-in date, and the company delivered oil to market quicker than expected. In addition to it running ahead of schedule, the project was completed under budget. 

All five FC-OSSG units have achieved predicted performance parameters, including steam flow, efficiency and emissions guarantees at high fire.  

Less than three years after ordering the FC-OSSG units, the oil production company announced that it had steam in the ground. The company is so pleased with the project that it ordered another five FC-OSSG units for its next SAGD project.

Cleaver-Brooks received a U.S. Patent for its FC-OSSG design in December 2014. 

In all, Cleaver-Brooks will be producing more than 3.6 million lb/hr of steam for this oil company. Cleaver-Brooks is proud to be part of the ongoing effort to extract oil from Canada’s vast reserves and to aid in developing the Oil Sands responsibly.