Report predicts 300% oil sands production rise

THE Canadian Energy Research Institute is forecasting oil sands production could increase more than 300% by 2045 based on current and proposed project plans, writes Tonya Zelinsky.

In its annual oil sands report the institute predicted, based on a high case scenario, that output from mining and in-situ oil sands projects in western Canada will jump to 6.2 million barrels per day by 2045 from the current 1.5 million bpd. However, a more realistic forecast will see production rise to 5.4 million bpd or, according to a low case scenario, to 4.1 million bpd.

Capital investment could jump as high as C$253 billion (US$254 billion) or as low as C$190 billion between 2011 and 2045 but the realistic forecast calls for investment of C$220 billion. Despite increasing production the biggest obstacles facing producers today is the lack of pipeline infrastructure to handle the demand. “It becomes apparent that the current pipeline infrastructure in Alberta will not be sufficient to transport forecasted oil sands volumes,” said the report.

To combat other issues facing the oil sands, such as a lack of skilled labour, the report concluded that industry needs more joint ventures and partnerships, investment in technology, better federal planning, and improvements in the public’s perception. The report concluded: “Industry’s challenge is to manage this ‘second boom’ more efficiently and in a more sustainable manner than the ‘first boom’ between 2006 and 2007.”

In December 2010 the Energy Resources Conservation Board estimated the oil sands to contain 1.8 trillion barrels of bitumen in place, of which 33.9 billion was mineable and 135.3 billion in situ.

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