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Imperial starts production at new oilsands project using lower-emissions technology


Imperial Oil Ltd. says it has started production at its new Grand Rapids oilsands project located at its Cold Lake operating site.

The Calgary-based company, which is majority owned by U.S. giant ExxonMobil, says the project will use a mixture of steam and chemical solvents to recover the bitumen that is too deep underground to be extracted via mining.

While all of the existing facilities at Imperial’s Cold Lake oilsands operation use steam instead of mining, the Grand Rapids expansion is the first to make use of solvents as well.

The use of solvents reduces the amount of steam heat required to get the sticky, tar-like bitumen moving so that it can be extracted. Imperial estimates the process will produce 40 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the existing methods it uses at Cold Lake.

Imperial says it will ramp up production at Grand Rapids in the coming months to achieve full rates of 15,000 barrels of oil per day.

Canada’s oilsands industry is under pressure to reduce its emissions profile. While oilsands companies have been able to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of their product per barrel through the use of technology and efficiency improvements, the industry’s overall emissions footprint is rising due to increased production.