Calgary breakthrough could fix pipeline problem (7 Visits)

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A Calgary engineer has an invention that he believes could transform the way Alberta gets heavy oil to market. Ian Gates was researching how to upgrade bitumen when him and his team accidentally discovered a way to degrade it, leading to a discovery that they could envelope the oil with self-sealing pellets, with a liquid core and viscous skin.

These are tough little balls of bitumen and could be a pipeline-free way to get oil to markets cheaply with less risk of environmental harm, according to a release from University of Calgary's Schulich School of Engineering at which Ian Gates is a professor.

Gates says the pellets could be put in thousands of rail cars that were built for coal and now sit idle. He doesn't expect to replace pipeline, just offer another form of transport.

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