Enews signup

Cleaver-Brooks Responds to the Unique Needs of Canada’s Oil Sands Industry

Case Study

  • Company: Shell Canada Albian Sands
  • Industry: Energy & Petrochemical
  • Location: Muskeg River Mine, Ft. McMurray, Alberta, Canada
  • Profile: Shell Canada’s Albian Sands project is dedicated to extracting oil from Canada’s vast reserves and developing the Oil Sands responsibly.
  • Challenge: Develop a modularized shop-assembled steam system to provide over 2 million lb/hr steam flow with maximum efficiency and reliability.
  • Solution: The Nebraska Elevated Drum D-Type boiler with Natcom burner maximizes shop assembly while minimizing field work. This approach saved millions of dollars over conventional field-erected designs.
  • Results: Successfully commissioned in 2009, this installation is the first of its kind and continues to serve as a model of efficiency.

When Shell Canada approached Cleaver-Brooks in 2007 with plans for a 2 million lb/hr steam plant at their Muskeg River Mine facility, they knew Cleaver-Brooks would draw upon over 80 years of engineering experience and expertise to develop a custom solution that precisely met their needs.

Historically, the largest shop-assembled (packaged) boilers available in the marketplace were limited to 250,000 lb/hr steam capacity. Larger capacity boilers were typically field-erected at the jobsite by an army of boilermakers. Given the high cost of skilled labor in the Oil Sands, Cleaver-Brooks approach was to maximize shop-assembled in order to minimize this costly field work. The end result was the first of its kind—the Elevated Drum D-Type boiler.  

The Nebraska Elevated Drum D-Type is designed for large steam capacities (up to 500,000 lb/hr) and high pressures (1,000+ psig). The steam-generating module is completely shop assembled, hydro-tested, insulated and lagged, and shipped as one piece. The steam drum is assembled with the trim, hydro-tested, insulated and lagged and shipped as the second piece. Field work to complete the packaged boiler includes: 1) setting the steam drum on saddles; 2) welding the prefabricated downcomers and risers (approximately 28 pipe welds); and 3) mounting the burner using pre-installed mounting plates. With the boiler package now complete, the rest of the work is simple field erection and installation.  

This robust boiler design features a generous furnace with low heat release rates; a low gas-side pressure drop to reduce fan power consumption; and external (unheated) risers and downcomers to ensure superior natural circulation and extended operating life. The elevated steam drum is adequately sized to handle load fluctuations with oversized drums (up to 72 in ID x 45 ft long) and properly sized drum internals.  

Each boiler also includes a dual burner, state-of-the-art, low NOx combustion system with rack-mounted fuel trains including flame safety and combustion controls that maximize system reliability and efficiency. Fuel skids were pre-piped, pre-wired and tested at the factory. The original contract called for 76 ppm NOx emissions. Final source testing revealed that the design achieved <45 ppm NOx (nearly half the emissions).  

In addition, this design includes a finned tube economizer and a system of air heaters utilizing thermal fluid to transfer waste heat from the stack flue gas to the inlet combustion air to optimize heat recovery. This approach yields 2 to 3% higher thermal efficiency than conventional boiler systems.  

Successfully commissioned in 2009, this installation is the first of its kind and continues to serve as a model of efficiency.  

Shell Canada also purchased a 264,000 lb/hr superheated D-Type boiler firing refinery gas for their Scotford Refinery Upgrader. The Albian Sands Muskeg River Mine facility and the Scotford Upgrader together form the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP). At full production, AOSP is capable of producing approximately 155,000 barrels per day of crude bitumen. In addition, a seventh 180,000 lb/hr D-Type boiler firing natural gas was also purchased by Shell Canada for their Waterton facility.  

In all, Cleaver-Brooks is producing over 2.5 million lb/hr of steam in Alberta for Shell Canada alone Cleaver-Brooks, in partnership with its authorized local representative, Tundra Boiler & Instrumentation, is proud to be part of the ongoing efforts to extract oil from Canada’s vast reserves and to aid in developing the Oil Sands responsibly.