The $9-billion Kearl Oilsands mine: An overview
Kearl is expected to recover approximately 4.6 billion barrels of bitumen over an estimated project life of more than 40 years
In mid-June, Imperial Oil announced that the massive Kearl oilsands expansion was finally up and running. The $9-billion mine northeast of Fort McMurray, Alberta, is expected to eventually produce 110,000 barrels of crude a day, doubling Kearl’s target capacity.
During peak construction, the Kearl expansion had a workforce of more than 5,000 people. The first phase of Kearl, also with a targeted 110,000-barrel-a-day production rate, started up more than two years ago.
During the first quarter of this year, the first phase of Kearl averaged output of 95,000 barrels a day. The initial development cost $12.9 billion—$2 billion more than expected as the company ran into delays transporting huge South Korean-made modules to the mine site.
"The overall Kearl development represents the next generation of oilsands mining,” said Imperial Oil CEO Rich Kruger in a press release. “Using Imperial’s proprietary paraffinic froth treatment process, we eliminated the need for an on-site upgrader, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, on a well-to-wheels basis, Kearl-diluted bitumen has about the same greenhouse gas emissions footprint as the average crude refined today in the United States. Energy consumption has also been reduced by installing electrical cogeneration technology.”
Construction of the Kearl expansion involved 33 million work hours and employed more than 5,000 people. Of the project’s approximately $9 billion investment, 90 per cent was spent with Canadian companies based in Alberta. The Kearl initial development commenced production in April 2013. Kearl bitumen production has been processed in more than 25 refineries throughout North America and elsewhere in the world. Located about 75 kilometres northeast of Fort McMurray, Kearl is expected to recover approximately 4.6 billion barrels of bitumen over an estimated project life of more than 40 years. The Kearl project is operated as a partnership between Imperial Oil and its U.S. parent, ExxonMobil Corp.