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New technologies give Imperial confidence oilsands projects will be approved

Imperial Oil chief executive Rich Kruger is pictured in this 2014 file photo.

Larry MacDougal/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The CEO of Imperial Oil says he's confident that two multi-billion-dollar oilsands projects facing regulatory review in Alberta will be approved, despite the NDP government's climate change policies which include a hard cap on overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Rich Kruger says the company's Aspen and Cold Lake Expansion projects in northern Alberta will use new technologies that mean they will be more energy efficient, use less water and produce lower emissions than the current industry standard.

Last week, the Alberta government approved three new oilsands projects that would together produce as much as 95,000 barrels of bitumen per day and add 2.5 megatonnes per year of greenhouse gas emissions. They are the first approvals since it announced late last year a 100-megatonne annual cap on overall emissions from the oilsands.

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Imperial applied to the Alberta Energy Regulator for permission to build Aspen in 2013 but filed a revised plan in the fall of 2015 to incorporate the new technology which adds solvents to steam injection to produce heavy, sticky bitumen from wells. It has been testing the technology at a pilot project in the Cold Lake region since 2010.

Aspen, which would be built in two 75,000-barrel-per-day phases, is expected to receive a regulatory ruling next year and would then be eligible for an investment decision by the company. The Cold Lake expansion, a 55,000-bpd project for which an application was filed last March, is expected to follow in 2018.

Kruger says the projects would be profitable with benchmark oil prices in the $50-$60 (U.S.) per barrel range. Neither is expected to be operational until after 2020.

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