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Worker on an Athabasca Oil rig

Athabasca Oil Corp.'s board of directors has given the green light to its $536-million Hangingstone oil sands project, which the company aims to develop as part of a joint venture.

The first 12,000-per-day phase of the steam-driven project is expected to start producing oil in early 2015. Athabasca plans to follow it up with two expansions that will bring daily production up to around 80,000 barrels.

Athabasca has been working on a joint venture deal for Hangingstone as well as for its Birch property, which is not as far along in development.

However, chief executive officer Sveinung Svarte said last month it would be tough to predict when the deal — which reportedly includes a Kuwaiti company among the potential partners — may come through.

"We are having regular discussions with the parties involved, but we are all just waiting for government approval in the country in question, so really we have nothing further to add to that," Mr. Svarte said on an Oct. 31 conference call to discuss Athabasca's quarterly financial results.

There was no mention in Athabasca's news release Wednesday of how the joint venture discussions are progressing.

But it did say well results from its Montney liquids-rich natural gas properties are meeting or exceeding its expectations and its light oil division is on track to meet its target of producing 10,000 to 11,000 barrels per day by year end.

Athabasca also announced a slate of management changes.

Vice-president of corporate development Bryan Gould has been promoted to president. Rob Bowie, currently director of portfolio management, will take Mr. Gould's place.

Ian Atkinson, vice-president of geoscience and development, is now senior vice-president of heavy oil, while Andre De Leebeeck, director of investor and partner relations, has been promoted to vice-president of investor relations.

The chief financial officer role has been divided into two positions in response as Athabasca's growth has meant a bigger workload. Current CFO Rob Harding will be vice-president of corporate services and a search is underway to find someone to fill the revised CFO role.

Finally, Rob Broen is joining the executive team as vice-president of light oil.

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