Obituaries for Canada’s tar sands/oil sands are premature, if you ask the country’s largest oil company. Suncor Energy is looking ahead to a series of relatively modest but cumulatively substantial increases in its production of synthetic crude oil through the next decade, JWN Energy reports.
Suncor has no plans for big, new, hugely expensive bitumen mines, CEO Steve Williams told shareholders at the Calgary-based company’s annual meeting. But it will develop a series of new in-situ, steam-assisted bitumen recovery locations that will cumulatively add 400,000 barrels per day to Suncor’s output—an increase of more than 70%.
The additional output will come in increments of 20 to 40,000 barrels per day, Williams said, using Suncor’s strategy of engineering “replication” in an effort to keep costs down. The Globe and Mail describes that strategy as using semi-modular “cookie-cutter oil sands plants to tap resource ‘pockets’, as opposed to building a central processing and extraction facility to harvest a much larger region.”
World oil prices persistently lower than the cost of producing synthetic crude from tarry bitumen have caused a succession of international companies to write down their tar sands/oil sands assets or withdraw from the industry, signalling a long-term loss of confidence in its outlook. And despite Suncor’s apparent faith in its own future, other observers—up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau—have speculated that the industry may soon be facing its endgame.