Suncor to expand oil sands mining, use new system

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Feb. 26 -- Suncor Energy Inc. plans to develop an oil sands mining project 3 km southwest of its existing oil sands operation north of Fort McMurray, Alta. The company has initiated the regulatory approval process and expects to apply for development of the project in mid-2007.

Suncor intends to develop the Voyageur South mining project using new technologies expected to improve operational performance, save costs, and mitigate impacts of development.

Suncor proposes to use mobile ore preparation equipment instead of the traditional truck and shovel mining system. It says this would reduce noise pollution and air emissions—particularly nitrogen oxides—require a smaller workforce, and help Suncor better manage costs by saving on road maintenance and fuel expenditures.

Suncor may use other technologies as well, such as new methods to advance tailings reclamation and reduce water inventories and improved heat integration and extraction processes that could improve resource recovery while reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission intensity. Commercial-scale tests of these technologies and equipment are under way.

The final plan submitted to regulators will reflect these assessments and information gathered through stakeholder consultations and environmental and socioeconomic impact studies.

Pending regulatory approval, Suncor expects to begin project construction in 2009, with operations beginning in 2011. Preliminary capital costs for the development will be submitted with the project application.

Suncor is targeting production of 120,000 b/d of bitumen from the project, which is expected to have an operational life of 40 years.

This bitumen production, along with bitumen feed from other Suncor mining and in situ operations and third-party supply, is expected to provide feedstock flexibility for the company's upgrading facilities, which targets production of 500,000-550,000 b/d of crude oil in 2010-12. The increased bitumen supply is also expected to form the foundation for potential future increases in crude oil production beyond 2012, Suncor said.

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