The Kearl Oil Sands Project is an oil sands mine in the Athabasca oil sands region, about 70 km north of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada. It has an estimated 4.6 billion barrels of recoverable bitumen resources, which will help meet North America’s energy needs for the next 40 years.
After submission of the initial public disclosure for the project in 1997, and an updated project disclosure in 2003, the project received regulatory approval from the government in June 2008. Engineering, procurement and construction activities were carried out between 2009 and 2012. The first production from the field began in April 2013.
Site construction works for the Kearl Oil Sands Project involved the installation of piling, concrete foundations, structural steel, modules, tagged equipment, vessels, piping and electrical systems. It necessitated the clearing of 3,000 hectares of timber and excavating 6.1 cubic meters of muskeg. It also required the excavation and segregation of 4.8 million cubic meters of topsoil and subsoil.
Other ancillary preliminary activities involved 42 million cubic meters of common excavation, 21.5 million cubic meters of dyke embankment fills, and 1.4 million cubic meters of ditching and drainage. The works also included 1.9 million cubic meters of granular fill, construction of access roads, excavating the opening cut and constructing a tailings dyke. The pre-construction works, overall, involved the movement of more than 50 million cubic meters of material.
The construction of the Kearl Oil Sands Project is carried out in three phases:
The first phase achieved an initial production of 110,000 barrels of bitumen per day from the field and involved the construction of a utilidor to transport utility lines from the site to the ore preparation plant. It also included the construction of pipelines to carry air and fuel, process water and supply water to the field. Construction of the initial development entailed 45 million person hours of work and employed a peak workforce of more than 5,000 people. The first production of mined diluted bitumen began on April 27, 2013.
The second phase included an expansion to produce an additional 110,000 barrels of bitumen per day. Construction of the Kearl expansion involved 33 million work hours and employed a peak workforce of more than 5,000 people. The project team and construction workforce achieved industry-leading safety performance. Production from the expansion project started on June 16, 2015.
The third phase of the project involves debottlenecking and will increase output to reach the regulatory capacity of 345,000 barrels a day by 2020.