The Rimbey gas plant, Keyera’s largest natural gas processing facility, is an impressive processing structure of huge columns of steel and metal, outlined sharply against the blue Alberta sky.
At the plant, located about 15 kilometers northeast of Rimbey, it appears to be business as usual with trucks coming and going and personnel suited in blue coveralls and hard hats all busily going about their duties.
Bob Morrish, general manager, operations said even with the uneasy financial woes, Albertans, specifically in the oil and gas industry, are facing, Keyera’s Rimbey gas plant is busy.
However, Morrish said volumes have leveled out and management is cognizant of the importance of keeping costs down.
“We are working very hard to reduce operating costs,” he said, “but we have not laid off any Keyera personnel.”
The gas plant, in operation since 1961 has a stellar reputation of rolling with the punches and withstanding the constant ebb and flow that characterizes the oil and gas industry.
In keeping with their innovative approach to the industry, the Rimbey gas plant has invested in a $257 million project including the installation of a 400 million cubic feet per day turbo expander unit to increase NGL (natural gas liquids)recoveries.
NGLs are naturally occurring hydrocarbons found in natural gas and include several products (e.g. ethane, propane, and butane) which are valuable as separate products.
The project, first announced in 2012, came to fruition on July 4, 2015 after almost two years of extensive planning and a great deal of teamwork and manpower.
“The expertise of our local employees played a huge role in the project,” said Morrish.
“Everybody took ownership. There was amazing team effort and every resource group within Keyera had a part to play.”
He is proud of the individuals involved and also pleased that there was no loss of time due to injuries while the project was ongoing, even though there was up to 850 people working on site at one time during peak construction.
“It was highly organized chaos,” he said. “Keyera views safety and safe practices as our highest priority,” he added.
Darrell Nichols, operations foreman and project lead has worked at Rimbey Gas Plant for 31 years. During this time, he has seen many changes, but he said the turbo expander and pipeline is the biggest change he’s seen.
“It was something they talked about for years,” he said, “and it was pretty amazing when it all finally came together.”
While the expansion is huge and has allowed the Rimbey plant to secure Dow Canada as a customer for their ethane, Morrish noted the plant’s overall volume capability is the same as before the upgrade.
“We upgraded one section/process of the plant. We did not make the plant able to produce higher volumes of inlet gas than it did before. We simply have the ability to recover more of the NGLs from the raw inlet gasses.”
He explained that up to 95 or 96 per cent of the ethane is being recovered and sold to Dow Canada.
The deep-cut liquid extraction capability means the Rimbey gas plant can offer processing services including NGL fractionation, rail and truck loading facilities and an NGL pipeline connection to the Edmonton/Fort Saskatchewan NGL hub.