Imperial starts up Kearl oil sands mine

By OGJ editors

Production of mined diluted bitumen has begun from the first of three trains at Imperial Oil Ltd.’s Kearl oil sands project 75 km northeast of Fort McMurray, Alta. (OGJ Online, Feb. 4, 2013).

Production will reach 110,000 b/d when all three trains are online later this year.

The project is the first oil sands mine in Alberta that has no upgrader. Kearl uses a proprietary froth treatment technology that enables salable bitumen to be produced with one processing step.

An expansion project will double Kearl production by late 2015 (OGJ Online, Jan. 19, 2012). Imperial expects future debottlenecking to raise output to about 345,000 b/d by about 2020. It estimates ultimate recovery of 4.6 billion bbl of bitumen over more than 40 years.

Because the project requires no upgrader, Kearl’s lifecycle emissions of greenhouse gases will be comparable to those of many other crude oils processed in the US, according to project partner ExxonMobil Corp.

Kearl has water storage to eliminate withdrawal from rivers during periods of low flow, “progressive land reclamation, earlier tailings reclamation than other oil sands mining operations, and a state-of-the-art waterfowl deterrent system,” ExxonMobil said.

Imperial holds a 70.96% interest in the Kearl project and is the operator. ExxonMobil, which owns 69.6% of Imperial, holds the remaining 29.04% Kearl interest through ExxonMobil Canada Properties, a wholly owned subsidiary.


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