Syncrude opens oil sands mine remotely located from upgrader

Syncrude Canada Ltd., Edmonton, opened its new $600 million (Can.) Aurora oil sands mining operation Thursday in the Fort McMurray region of northern Alberta. This is the first oil sands mine to be remotely located from an upgrader, said company officials.


CALGARY�Syncrude Canada Ltd., Edmonton, opened its new $600 million (Can.) Aurora oil sands mining operation Thursday in the Fort McMurray region of northern Alberta. It is the first oil sands mine to be remotely located from an upgrader, said company officials.

The Aurora mine is 22 miles from Syncrude�s main mining operation. It uses a new proprietary technology that allows output to be partially processed on site and then piped to the main plant for froth treatment and upgrading. The result is lower production costs and improved environmental performance through lower energy consumption, said Syncrude.

Mining and extraction will occur at Aurora, with the resulting bitumen froth being piped to the Mildred Lake upgrading complex for conversion into Syncrude sweet blend, a light, sweet crude oil.

The Aurora mine took 3 1/2 years to develop and is the second phase of an $8 billion expansion program started in 1996 by the consortium.

Additional mining and upgrading expansions are expected to double Syncrude�s oil production capacity to 460,000 b/d by 2008.

Aurora mine project

Syncrude chairman and CEO Eric Newell said the Aurora mine includes the results of research into new technologies such as hydrotransport, low-energy extraction, and bitumen froth pipelining. He said the technologies will enable growth throughout the entire oil sands industry.

Syncrude Pres. and COO Jim Carter said the Aurora project proves the Syncrude consortium can successfully grow the business and access new high-quality oil sands ore bodies without having to relocate or construct a new upgrading facility.

Spending on the $8 billion Syncrude 21 expansion and development program includes:

-- $470 million to develop the North mine, opened in October 1997, and to debottleneck the upgrader.

-- $970 million to develop the first production train at Aurora and complete additional debottlenecking of the upgrader at the main mine at Mildred Lake. These projects are now in operation.

-- $3 billion to expand the upgrader and add a second production train at Aurora. That project is expected to be approved by the Syncrude owners in 2001.

Syncrude Canada Ltd. owners are AEC Oil Sands LP, AEC Oil Sands LP, Athabasca Oil Sands Investments Inc., Canadian Occidental Petroleum Ltd., Canadian Oil Sands Investments Inc., Gulf Canada Resources Ltd., Imperial Oil Resources Ltd., Mocal Energy Ltd., Murphy Oil Company Ltd., and Petro-Canada.

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