Partial Upgrading & Desulphurization


Vista performed the integrated engineering and procurement for a pilot demonstration facility that allows for partial upgrading and desulphurization of heavy hydrocarbon feedstocks into IMO-compliant marine fuel. The project scope later expanded to include the front-end engineering design (FEED) for a larger facility with a production capacity of 10,000 barrels per day (BPD).


An industrial technology startup looking to develop a demonstration plant.


A demonstration facility using desulphurization technology to produce finished low-sulphur marine fuel using local heavy oil feedstocks.


Located in the Alberta Heartland region, the client’s goal is to use its patented technology to convert bitumen, heavy oil or vacuum tower residuals into marine fuel that complies with the International Maritime Organization and Enhanced Capital Allowances standards.


Working with its client, an Alberta-based industrial technology startup, Vista completed the FEED engineering and procurement for the pilot facility to better define how the desulphurization and upgrading technology could work across a range of high-sulphur feedstocks.

In 2019, Vista also completed FEED for the next phase of the project, an expanded 10,000 BPD commercial facility. The client plans to one day expand its use of the technology to full scale.

Success Factors

A key success factor for any new technology is the project team’s ability to efficiently and continuously optimize designs. Affordable adaptability is critical to the technology development process. These requirements made Vista’s modernized project execution systems and leading use of intelligent, data-centric engineering a perfect fit for the client.

By using a digital engineering environment from the beginning of the project, Vista’s experienced team was able to establish a digital engineering workflow that fostered a rapid (and sometimes iterative) design process.

Desulphurization Equipment & Technology

The design included truck and rail loading facilities, a chemical reactor, oil/solids separation packages and utilities like electrical power, compressed air, and utility steam.

At the heart of the technology is the chemical reactor. Sodium, hydrogen and heavy oil are mixed in the reactor where the sodium preferentially seeks out and virtually eliminates sulphur. The resulting product contains very low levels of sulphur and metals and is also much lighter and less viscous than the original feed while still retaining the energy content.

Engineering Applications

The engineering capabilities demonstrated on this project showed that Vista is an ideal fit for industrial technology startups looking to overcome design challenges with streamlined project execution. The path of new technology development from pilot to commercial scale is not always a straight line. These types of projects require an engineering consulting company like Vista who can provide a flexible yet efficient engineering solution.

Have a similar engineering need? Contact us to learn how we can help your project.

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