Non-upgraded heavy oil and bitumen are too viscous to flow in a pipeline without being blended (diluted) with a light hydrocarbon. There are two diluents (blending agents) currently in use. Condensate (naphtha), which is a very light hydrocarbon (about 65 API), is blended in a ratio of 70% bitumen to 30% condensate to create what is termed DilBit. SCO, which is bitumen that has been processed by an upgrader, is blended in a ratio of 50:50 to create SynBit. The goal of this blending is to achieve a product that meets pipeline specifications.

The costs associated with diluent acquisition and use can significantly raise the effective transportation cost for the producer. These diluent costs include (i) acquisition costs, (ii) pipeline transportation costs for the diluent from a central terminal to the production field, (iii) the cost of blending, (iv) the costs of moving the diluent in Dilbit from the field via a pipeline terminal, and (v) the pipeline toll from the terminal to the refining center, less the value of the diluent at the end-use refinery.

Increasing production of bitumen has and will place a strain on the limited supply of diluent. This is forcing producers to develop alternate strategies to transport heavy oil. The future supply of bitumen will depend on bitumen production, upgrading capacity, the source and type of diluent used, or on new methods of reducing viscosity without adding diluent. By eliminating the diluent, the bitumen throughput in the existing the pipeline network could increase by approximately 40%.

PetroBeam can improve the cost of transporting heavy oil through pipelines. The PetroBeam process safely, reliably, effectively, and environmentally responsibly reduces viscosity, eliminating the need for diluent by shifting the molecular weight of the feedstock from heavier to lighter.