Case Study: On-Site Bitumen Spill Removal on Oil Sands

Case Study: On-Site Bitumen Spill Removal on Oil Sands

Techniques Used: Dry Ice Blasting

Service: Bitumen & Tar Removal

A bitumen spill can be a serious setback in the operation of an oil-sands site. With oil under pressure as it moves through the piping systems, there is always the possibility of a safety relief valve malfunctioning. In these situations, if bitumen is released, it contaminates the area within a few hundred feet with a fine mist that halts production. Until this bitumen is cleaned and removed, this situation can seriously inhibit production.

Dry ice blasting is an ideal cleaning solution in these scenarios; it is a non-abrasive technique with no residual waste that cools bitumen on contact, making it easy to lift off and remove while leaving the original surface undamaged. Dry ice blasting also effectively cleans delicate and hard-to-reach areas without damage, whereas other techniques are less effective.

The Situation

Western was contacted by an oil sands company with a request to perform a bitumen spill cleanup on-site. They were looking for a local company that provided quick responses and were referred to Western based on our experience and expertise in bitumen spill cleanup.

The spill we were contracted to clean had coated instrumentation and equipment, making it even more important to complete the removal quickly. Until the cleanup was completed, their team would be unable to function in that area, affecting production.

While we were on site, a second bitumen spill occurred in the same area, urgently requiring cleanup.

The Solution

In time-sensitive or emergency situations, Western is able to respond and mobilize to the site within 24 hours. We worked within our client’s schedule, and based on their timeline, were on-site and ready to clean as soon as possible.

Western sent a team of a supervisor and technicians to complete this cleanup. A cleanup of this size would usually take our team about a week to clean, but it took two weeks due to the second spill.

Our team took care to use adequate protection and full PPE, to ensure no contamination or contact with the bitumen during the cleaning process.

Our team used dry ice blasting to remove the bitumen from the entire area, including structural steel, piping, equipment, and all instrumentation. Some areas of the site were out of reach from ground level, so a lift was used to safely access and clean those areas.

Dry ice blasting is a safe cleaning method for equipment and instrumentation while in full operation, as it is non-abrasive and non-conductive. This makes it safe for situations where sensitive instrumentation like gauges, valves, controls, and other equipment have been coated with bitumen. Dry ice blasting does not leave any secondary waste behind, making projects easier to clean and complete quickly.

While our equipment was on-site during the second bitumen spill, no damage was caused. We were able to return the next day, re-blast the work we had already completed and continue the project as quickly as possible.

The Results

Despite the second bitumen spill setback, our team completed the cleanup in two weeks. All contaminated areas were cleaned, with no damage to the equipment and instrumentation.

Our client was pleased with the work performed and thanks to the quality of work completed, has reached out to us to provide other maintenance work.

Serving Fort McMurray

As a local company serving the greater Fort McMurray area, Western Dry Ice Blasting is a strong advocate of environmentally safe cleaning methods.

Contact us today for more information on how dry ice blasting can effectively clean bitumen spills on your location.


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Are you ready to learn more about implementing dry ice blasting services in your business? Our team is on standby, ready to answer any questions and schedule our team’s arrival at your site.

Talk to an Expert – 1-780-799-1879

Send Us an Email – info@westerndryiceblasting.com