Ft. McMurray, Alberta, Canada

Nexen Long Lake Upgrader for Sulfur Recovery Unit - Engineering & Procurement

The Long Lake integrated oil sands facility represents a new approach to upgrading bitumen from Alberta oil sands: steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) extraction integrated with onsite upgrading.

Fluor provided engineering and procurement for major portions of the 72,000 barrel per day upgrader as well as licensed technology and construction for the Sulfur Recovery Unit.

Photo Credit: a Nexen Inc. photo

Client's Challenge

The project, executed by a joint venture of Nexen Inc. and OPTI Canada Inc., is designed to produce premium synthetic crude oil from bitumen contained in the Alberta oil sands.

Bitumen makes up 10 to 12 percent of the oil sand resource. The remainder is mostly sand and clays. At room temperature, bitumen is much like cold molasses and is not suitable for conventional refining. At 2,500 feet below the surface, the Long Lake deposit is too deep to mine.

Long Lake is the first oil sands project to integrate SAGD bitumen extraction with an onsite upgrader and represents the world's first commercial application of the proprietary OrCrude upgrading technology. Commercial gasification and hydrocracking technologies were employed as well as air separation, sulfur recovery and hydrogen purification.

This combination yields a synthetic crude product with premium properties and requires significantly less natural gas than conventional upgraders, both contributing to improved project economics.

A remote project location, with limited site access, and a strained labor market drove the extensive use of modular construction.

Large and heavy process equipment required unique and carefully planned transportation.

Photo Credit: a Nexen Inc. photo

Fluor's Solution

Fluor's project team worked with the Client from the outset to develop scope and execution options. A Value Engineering Review was conducted, leading to a 35% reduction in cost with no significant change in plant output.

Later, the project team prepared capital and operating cost estimates and provided support to overall schedule and execution plan development for project appropriations.

Engineering and procurement services were provided on budget and within schedule, including execution of a significant portion of design work in New Delhi, India.

The design represented the most extensive use of piperack and equipment modules on an Alberta oil sands project to date, with more than 65% of the piping located on more than 300 modules.

Procurement successes included 70 percent mill buys for piping materials while containing surplus materials to less than 3 percent.

Many logistics challenges were overcome, particularly in moving large and heavy pressure vessels procured from around the world. For example, a 652- ton reactor was shipped to site using a unique jointed rail car after an ocean voyage from Japan to the head of the St.

Lawrence Seaway. Other equipment was moved on a 62-car dedicated heavy haul rail shipment that, at 1.6 km long, was the longest such movement to date.

Fluor's sulfur recovery / tail gas treating technology, offered throughout the industry, was licensed for the project.

Construction of the Sulfur Recovery Unit was performed by Fluor based on the design prepared by another contractor.

The Long Lake upgrader was completed in 2008 and is currently being operated by Nexen. Fluor continues to provide engineering services.

Photo Credit: a Nexen Inc. photo


Long Lake was created in order to produce a premium synthetic crude oil from oil sands bitumen.

Fluor performed detailed engineering and procurement services for the three main upgrader process units and for the utilities and offsite areas of the project.

The upgrader produces about 60,000 barrels of synthetic crude oil per day from heavy oil recovered from underground deposits by steam injection. The synthetic crude oil is sold to refineries for further processing to ultimately reach customers as motor fuel and other petroleum products.

The upgrader licensed Fluor's sulfur recovery technology and was the world's first commercial implementation of OrCrude upgrading technology.

Approximately 600 Fluor employees contributed to project.

Photo Credit: a Nexen Inc. photo