Summing up last year's winners in the oil sands mining game
If oil sands mining were a competitive sport, the Jackpine Mine would definitely win the prize.
IN FIRST PLACE
Jackpine has a production capacity of 100,000 bbl/day, but averaged 132,000 bbl/day last year. The adjacent Muskeg River Mine produced 162,800 bbl/day in 2018, slightly above its nameplate of 155,000 bbl/day.
Both mining facilities, known collectively as Albian Sands, were purchased by Canadian Natural Resources from Royal Dutch Shell in the spring of 2017. Albian produced its billionth barrel of bitumen in the summer of last year.
THE RUNNER UP
Imperial Oil's Kearl Mine would definitely take the prize for most improved mining operation. The facility was plagued with a number of reliability issues after its start-up in 2013, but has since undergone a major operational facelift. The company added redundancy to its ore preparation plant, and improved the reliability of its slurry piping system, two major improvements that have finally started to pay off.
Kearl hit its design capacity last year, averaging 223,000 bbl/day, a hair above its nameplate of 220,000 bbl/day.
By the end of this year, Imperial says Kearl's nameplate capacity will be bumped up to about 240,000 bbl/day.
The awards ceremony wouldn't be complete without an honourable mention for the Fort Hills Mine.
Fort Hills, operated by Suncor Energy, began bitumen production at the beginning of 2018, and managed to hit its nameplate capacity by October. The facility averaged 218,500 bbl/day in December, a whopping 25,000 bbl/day above design. An incredible feat for a new start-up, especially in the oil sands mining game.