Imperial Oil approves Kearl oil sands project

Guntis Moritis
OGJ Production Editor

HOUSTON, May 29 -- Imperial Oil Ltd. recently announced that it would proceed with the first phase of the $8 billion (Can.) Kearl oil sands project, a surface mining and bitumen extraction operation about 70 km northeast of Fort McMurray, Alta.

The company plans to develop Kearl in three phases with production from the first phase beginning in late 2012 at an average 110,000 b/d of bitumen. Construction costs are about $4.50 (Can.)/bbl of bitumen recovered, according to Imperial Oil. It expects production to increase to about 300,000 b/d of bitumen upon completion of all three phases.

The company estimates that the project area contains near the surface an estimated 4.6 billion bbl of bitumen recoverable with open-pit mining methods that include large-scale electrical and hydraulic shovels, trucks, and double roll crushers.

The operation involves mixing the crushed oil sand with water to form slurry that enters a bitumen extraction facility. The facility separates the bitumen as a froth, which is mixture of bitumen, water, and fine solids. The froth then enters the froth treatment plant that produces saleable bitumen.

Imperial Oil currently has no plans to include an onsite upgrader. For shipping the bitumen through third-party pipelines, it will reduce the bitumen's viscosity by adding a diluent, such as a natural gas condensate.

The Alberta government approved the project in May 2007, and Canada's federal government approved it in August 2007.

Contact Guntis Moritis at guntism@ogjonline.com.

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