Alberta oilsands project approved; another unveiled

Oilsands activity in Northern Alberta continues to increase as a planned project received regulatory approval last week and new plans were unveiled for another project. Petro-Canada, Calgary, received approval for the McKay River oilsands project in northern Alberta. Meanwhile, OPTI Canada Inc., a unit of the Israeli-US engineering and manufacturing firm Ormat Industries Ltd., announced plans for a $450 million project.


CALGARY�Oilsands activity in Northern Alberta continues to increase as a planned project received regulatory approval last week and new plans were unveiled for another project.

Petro-Canada, Calgary, received approval for the McKay River oilsands project in northern Alberta. Estimated to cost $175 million (Can.), McKay River will have projected production of as much as 22,000 b/d. Construction could start this fall on the Petro-Canada project, which would use steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) technology to recover bitumen.

Meanwhile, OPTI Canada Inc., a unit of the Israeli-US engineering and manufacturing firm Ormat Industries Ltd., announced plans for a $450 million project.

OPTI wants to develop an in situ recovery project on bitumen leases owned by Suncor Energy Inc., Calgary, about 25 miles southeast of Fort McMurray, Alta. The property, formerly known as Cheecham, would produce about 30,000 b/d. Subject to regulatory approvals, OPTI said construction could start in 2002, with production slated to begin in 2004.

The company says it would use a small field-based heavy oil upgrader on site to process 30,000 b/d. It is currently building a 500 b/d upgrader at a Burnt Lake heavy oil site, operated by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., near Cold Lake, Alta.

The Petro-Canada and OPTI projects add to a growing list of developments and expansions in Alberta�s oilsands and heavy oil fields, spurred by strong commodity prices. An estimated 58 projects are planned or under way, with a combined value of close to $33 billion (Can.). The largest projects are a $6 billion expansion program by operator Syncrude Canada Ltd. and a $2 billion expansion by operator Suncor Energy Ltd., both in the Fort McMurray region.

Shell Canada Ltd. also is planning a $4.1 billion project in the same region. It is also re-examining a shelved commercial-scale project in the Peace River area, where it now operates a pilot plant.

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