Meeting Archives

2015 Summer: Minneapolis, MN, June 11

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Proceedings of Crude Oil Quality Association (COQA) Meeting
11 June 2015
Minneapolis, MN

The mid 2015 Crude Oil Quality Association (COQA) meeting was held 11 June 2015 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Minneapolis, MN.

The Association gratefully thanks the following companies for their support at this meeting:
InspectorateFlint Hills Logosaybolt logo
Northern Tier Logo NewMaxxam_colour-med


Wednesday, June 10

The crude by rail subcommittee met from 1:30- 4:00 pm with Dennis Sutton leading the group in the absence of the subcommittee chairmen.


Thursday, June 11- Morning Session

Sutton opened the meeting with general announcements, acknowledging the corporate sponsors and supporters whose financial backing supports the organization.  He noted that U.S. oil output will hit a 43 year high in 2015, as production is expected to reach 9.43 million b/d.

George Shaffner, Senior Vice President of Marathon Petroleum (MPC), and Cara Madee, their Manager of Feedstock Quality, kicked off the morning with a look at Marathon Petroleum, their midstream investment plans, and concluding with discussion on Utica condensate.  With 2014 revenues of $98.1 billion, MPC is the 4th largest US refiner and the largest in the Midwest.  On the retail side, they have approximately 2,750 Speedway and 5,500 Marathon Brand outlets.  The Utica condensate, in eastern Ohio, is a great fit with MPC’s Canton, OH and Catlettsburg, KY refineries, and they have invested significantly to accommodate the growing volumes.  A slide comparing the light ends in Utica to other light crudes shows Utica to have significantly more C2- C5s than Niobrara, Bakken, Eagle Ford, or WTI.

Ron Fisher of BP, Refining and Logistics Technology presented “Asphaltene Precipitation in Domestic Sweet”.  Samples of domestic sweet taken during 4Q2014 and 1Q2015 showed significant quantities of precipitated asphaltenes.  Historical levels of asphaltenes were in the 0.2 – 0.5% range, while data from 2013- present is 0.7- 1.0%.  Tight oil blending with small amounts of heavy sour crudes could be a contributing factor to these results.  Ron concluded his talk, shifting from the mid-Continent to the North Sea, showing some data on the quality of Forties Blend over the past 20 years.

Colin Stewart, Special Projects Director with Intertek in Aberdeen, Scotland described 30 years work with North Sea crude assays in his talk titled “Sceptic to Convert- It’s a Pipeline Story”.  Because of the commingling of crude from multiple platforms into common pipeline systems such as the Ninian, Brent, and Forties, there are billions of dollars at stake based on accurate crude assays used to determine the quality bank allocations.  In 2001, BP (Operator of the Forties Pipeline System) had the vision to move from the labor intensive manual assays to a fully automated approach utilizing Near Infrared Spectroscopic (NIR) analyses and on-line transfer of data. Intertek has been able to achieve this vision utilizing PT5 NIR technology, and has also applied this approach to other applications as well.


Continuing with the theme of NIR applications, Dr. Didier Lambert, President of TOPNIR, spoke on “Crude Oil Identification and Characterization- A unique approach by Topnir”.  TOPNIR has been delivering hydrocarbon characterization solutions for over 20 years for complex streams such as gasoline, diesel, naphtha, base oils, and crude oil.  Dr. Lambert described some of the TOPNIR turnkey solutions involving crude oil, including a Crude Distillation Unit project at a German refinery, a raw crude pipeline with synthetic and conventional crude, a project with Ecopetrol in Colombia, and a crude distillation project in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia.


Turning to the mid-Continent, Dr. Arden Strycker of SGS delivered a presentation on the “Testing Challenges in the Williston Basin”.  After providing an overview of SGS and their corporate capabilities, Arden described the services provided by their Williston, ND lab.  He enumerated the specific analytical challenges associated with the vapor pressure analyses of the light, tight oils, such as the Bakken.  These include:

  • Precision, and Method Scope
  • Use of Floating Piston Cylinders
  • Sample Introduction Temperature
  • Comparison of D6377 Vapor Pressure Results


Thursday, June 11- Afternoon Session

Kirk Walztoni, Refinery Planning Manager, provided a look at Northern Tier Energy (NTE), and specifically their refinery located on the southeast side of the Twin Cities.  The St. Paul Park Refinery was started in 1939 by Northwest Refining, was purchased by Northern Tier from Marathon in 2010, and most recently, in 2013,  Western Refining acquired a 39% stake in Northern Tier.  The St. Paul Park facility has been quite profitable and in 2014 was ranked #3 among US Independent Refiners in Gross Margin per Barrel.  Within the past few years, NTE has had a goal of increasing the amount of Bakken crude sourced directly from the field.  Kirk concluded by describing some of their crude quality efforts to ensure they are getting what they think they are buying, specifically for the Bakken and Canadian grades.


Dr. Adam Magyar of Amspec shared a review on “Crude Oil from the Mid-Continent and the Bakken”.  A chart showing data from EIA highlighted the phenomenal growth in the Bakken-increasing 10 fold in the 8 year period of January 2007 to January 2015, from 133K b/d to >1.3 million b/d.  In the past few months, production has declined due to the lower crude prices.  Summarizing crude by rail and noting some of the major incidents, as movements of crude by rail have grown ~40 fold, incidents involving railroad tank cars carrying crude have grown also, about 16 fold.  He examined API Recommended Practice 3000 and then detailed the flash point, distillation, and vapor pressure methods used for classifying crude oil for shipment.


Ted Aulich of the Energy and Environmental Research Center (Grand Forks, ND) presented an update that he and his colleague, Chad Wocken prepared, on “US Department of Energy Crude Oil Characterization Research Study”.  They have completed a literature study that includes a great deal of variability in criteria and procedures used in sample selection, acquisition, and analyses.  One of the outcomes from this is that “clear relationships between crude oil properties and probability or severity of rail accident combustion events have not been established”.   Planned work includes the following tasks:

  • Update Literature Review with New and Emerging Data
  • Evaluate Sampling Methods
  • Combustion Experiments and Modeling
  • Sampling and Analysis of Tight and Conventional Oils
  • Large-Scale Combustion Testing and Computational Fluid Dynamics Modeling
  • Comprehensive Crude Oil Characterization

The COQA will look forward to ongoing updates on this work.

Bob Falkiner of Imperial Oil, and a member of the CCQTA Board presented an update of the CCQTA activities.  As the CCQTA has grown in number of projects and recognition, they are moving from a volunteer board to a governance board and are also evaluating new approaches to project funding. The CCQTA currently has 84 member companies and 11 member funded projects.  In addition to the on-going projects, new activities include:

  • Test Method ASTM D7975 Published
  • Light ends analysis (HPLIS) test method submitted to ASTM for approval
  • Manual Piston Cylinder (MPC) sampling method submitted to ASTM for approval
  • Developing methodology for trace analysis of O2/CO2/H2S in crude oil, and
  • Crude oil flammability work- collaborating with the US DOE

Dennis Sutton, COQA Executive Director, concluded the day’s presentations by summarizing recent crude oil conferences and events. As the COQA has grown in prominence and visibility, we are often asked to partner with various industry events, e.g. Argus Americas Crude Conference, and are invited to speak at crude oil related conferences.  Dennis highlighted five recent events he and the COQA have been a part of.

  • Opportunity Crudes Conference- September 2014
    • COQA was a Promotional Partner
  • RBN Energy/ Turner, Mason & Company- August 2014
  • Argus Americas Crude Conference- January 2015
    • COQA was a Partnering Organization
    • Many COQA members have made presentations at these conferences
  • EUCI North American Crude Transloading Forum- March 2015
  • Platts 9th Annual Rockies Oil & Gas Conference- April 2015

The next COQA meeting will be October 22, 2015 at the Astor Crowne Plaza hotel in New Orleans, LA.

Dennis Sutton
COQA Executive Director