Kearl, located 70 kilometres north of Fort McMurray and jointly owned by Imperial (71 percent) and ExxonMobil Canada (29 percent), is one of Canada’s highest-quality oil sands deposits. It has an estimated 4.6 billion barrels of recoverable bitumen resource, which will help meet North America’s energy needs for the next 40 years.
Production of mined diluted bitumen at Kearl began on April 27, 2013. All three froth treatment trains are now operational and bitumen production continues to increase towards planned production volumes of 110,000 barrels per day.
Construction of the initial development entailed 45 million person hours of work and employed a peak workforce of more than 5,000 people. By the end of 2012, Kearl had spent more than $1 billion with local businesses in the Wood Buffalo region and $220 million of that was spent with local Aboriginal businesses.
An expansion phase at Kearl will ultimately add another 110,000 barrels per day of capacity, and future debottlenecking will increase output to reach the regulatory capacity of 345,000 barrels per day.
Kearl represents the next generation of oil sands mining projects, with technologies that significantly enhance its environmental performance. Energy needs have been reduced by using a proprietary froth treatment process that eliminates the need to build an upgrader. The installation of energy-saving cogeneration, expected in late 2015/early 2016, will also help reduce the energy draw from the Alberta electricity grid and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Other environmental innovations include on-site water storage to eliminate river withdrawals in low-flow periods, progressive land reclamation, earlier tailings reclamation than other oil sands operations and a state-of-the-art waterfowl deterrent system.