CALGARY – Imperial Oil Ltd. says 22 refineries — including one in Malaysia — have processed crude from its Kearl oilsands mine, which uses a proprietary technology to remove the “heaviest, gooiest” parts of the bitumen before it’s put in a pipeline.
Also Wednesday, the company said the mine in northern Alberta produced about 70,000 barrels of crude per day during the first quarter of this year — still a ways from its design capacity of 110,000 barrels.
Imperial had initially planned to run Kearl crude through its own refineries and those operated by its U.S. parent company ExxonMobil Corp. (NYSE:XOM), but was surprised by how eager other players were to get their hands on the product.
The majority of the crude has stayed in North America, but a few cargoes were able to make their way across the Pacific to Malaysia via the Trans Mountain pipeline, which delivers crude from Alberta to the B.C. Lower Mainland and Washington State. The pipeline’s operator, Kinder Morgan, wants to nearly triple Trans Mountain’s size — a $5.4-billion proposal that’s currently before regulators.
Kruger said Imperial’s paraffinic froth treatment technology is working better than expected at Kearl, which started up just under a year ago at a cost of $12.9 billion — $2 billion over its previous estimate.
He couldn’t comment on what price the Kearl product is fetching in the marketplace.
All three production trains at the mine have been able to operate at full capacity, but the challenge has been running each simultaneously.
There are about 8,000 valves that need to operate properly and a number of other aspects that needed to be checked as the mine started up.
“Not one of the items on the list are of any long-term concern. They are the normal kinds of things you see on the start up of a project,” said Kruger.
“We’d rather be safe than sorry. If something starts to deviate, rather than run the risk and try to push production through it and run the risk of an equipment failure, I want to take it down, I want to inspect it, investigate it, understand what it is and then we’ll bring it back up.”
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