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File photo of an Athabasca Oil operation. (Athabasca Oil Corp.)
File photo of an Athabasca Oil operation. (Athabasca Oil Corp.)

Athabasca Oil chairman steps down after Dover approval Add to ...

Athabasca Oil Corp.’s chairman and founder is stepping down one day after the company and its Chinese partner clinched provincial approval for a northern Alberta oil sands project.

William Gallacher – who founded Athabasca in 2006 – is resigning as chairman on Friday to “concentrate on his other endeavours,” the Calgary-based company said in a news release.

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He is being replaced by Thomas Buchanan, a board member since 2006.

“Athabasca is now entering a phase where operational excellence is key to its success,” said Mr. Gallacher.

“My goal was to see the company through to a clear path to assure its long term funding. I feel this has been achieved with the recently announced Order in Council for the Dover Commercial Project, paving the way for exercising the Dover put option.”

The Alberta cabinet announced on Thursday approval of Brion Energy Corp.’s Dover oil sands project, a 250,000-barrel-a-day steam-driven bitumen project near the 700-member Fort McKay First Nation.

Brion is 60-per-cent owned by PetroChina Co. Ltd. and Athabasca has the remainder.

Environmental approval is anticipated within two to four weeks, after which Athabasca is expected to exercise its put option to sell its 40-per-cent stake to PetroChina for $1.3-billion.

Looking to develop its holdings in the gas-rich Duvernay shale region of Alberta and elsewhere, Athabasca had to cut capital spending and borrow money as it went through a lengthy process over Dover approval, including opposition from the Fort McKay First Nation.

“We have experienced many successes along the way but we have also had to overcome numerous challenges,” said Mr. Buchanan.

“Bill has been instrumental in both creating the success and in solving the challenges.”

Athabasca also announced on Friday the appointment to the board of energy industry veteran Peter Sametz.

Mr. Sametz served most recently as interim president and chief executive officer of Connacher Oil and Gas.

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