Partners in the Fort Hills oil sands mine have approved development leading to production of as much as 180,000 b/d of bitumen.
The site is 90 km north of Fort McMurray, Alta., in the Athabasca region.
Suncor Energy Inc., operator and developer under an operating services contract, expects production to start as soon as the fourth quarter of 2017. Output will reach 90% of capacity within 12 months. The company estimates contingent resources at 3.3 billion bbl of bitumen and the mine life at more than 50 years at the currently planned production rate.
Expected capital investment in the project is $13.5 billion (Can.).
Suncor and Total E&P had planned to build an upgrader called Voyageur at Fort McMurray to handle bitumen from Fort Hills and the nearby Joslyn mining project planned by a group led by Total E&P Canada and including Suncor. Suncor cancelled the Voyageur project and acquired Total’s interest earlier this year (OGJ Online, Mar. 27, 2013).
Suncor operates two upgraders in Fort McMurray and has upgrading capacity at its 140,000-b/d refinery at Edmonton.