By Stuart Matthews
A Canadian research project could make sulphur a future fuel.
The continued worldwide development of sour oil and gas reserves is having an impact on the global sulphur market.
According to Peter Clark, technical manager for Alberta Sulphur Research (ASR), voluntary sulphur production has almost ceased in the last few years. Speaking on the sidelines of last week's Sour Oil & Gas Advanced Technology (SOGAT) conference in Abu Dhabi, Clark explained that the amount of sulphur created by sour oil and gas treatment exceeds world demand.
"Future development of heavy oil and bitumen in Alberta, Canada, has the potential to completely overwhelm the world market. We need to look at adopting new strategies."
Storage of solid sulphur is a common option in Canada and may also be a viable option in the Middle East, as exploitation of sour reserves expands. Of more economic interest maybe research being done by ASR into other applications. One such idea is the use of sulphur as a fuel for combustion, with the resulting SO
being injected into a reservoir.
"If it can be done can safely, excess sulphur can be combusted to yield energy, probably in a power cogeneration plant," said Clark.
"We have completed the research and development and are now moving into the demonstration phase. It will be around three years before we can see if it is feasible. Results hinge on the behaviour of the injected gas in the reservoir.
"The limitation is sulphur's energy content, which is not as high as methane. It will not produce a lot of power, but [the project] may turn sulphur handling into an economic technology. You could potentially make a 40MW powerplant, which is enough to make it viable."