Mined oil sands output flatlines, despite big improvement in oil prices

Mined oil sands output flatlines, despite big improvement in oil prices

Alberta's curtailment program continues to take a bite out of total oil sands production. After hitting a record high in November of last year, output from the province’s oil sands mining and bitumen upgrading operations has waffled for the first five months of 2019.

The former NDP government introduced production quotas late last year, after Canadian oil prices plunged to multi-year lows, due to a blow-out of the heavy and light oil differentials. Although those discounts have narrowed considerably since then, the newly elected UCP government has decided to extend curtailment quotas to the end of 2020.

 
 

Output from Alberta's big six mining operations dipped to 1.54 million bbl/day in May, down 54,000 bbl/day from April and down 265,000 bbl/day from last November's peak. Output from Alberta's big four upgraders fell to 1.04 million bbl/day, down 24,000 bbl/day from the previous month, and well below the record high of 1.25 million bbl/day reached last November.

BIGGEST DECLINES — HORIZON

CNRL's Horizon Mine took the biggest hit in May, as production declined 107,000 bbl/day to just 164,000 bbl/day. Horizon has a nameplate capacity of 300,000 bbl/day. Output from the adjacent upgrader was also cut by almost 95,000 bbl/day, falling to 138,000 bbl/day of synthetic crude oil (SCO).

HORIZON MINE — BITUMEN PRODUCTION AND RECOVERY

HORIZON UPGRADER — SYNTHETIC CRUDE OUTPUT

MOST IMPROVED — SUNCOR ENERGY

May's most improved operation was the Suncor Base Plant, where mining output rebounded 88,000 bbl/day to 339,000 bbl/day, slightly above nameplate. SCO production out of the adjacent Suncor upgrader also rose almost 100,000 bbl/day, returning to 335,000 bbl/day. 

SUNCOR BASE PLANT — BITUMEN PRODUCTION AND RECOVERY

SUNCOR UPGRADER 1/2 — SYNTHETIC CRUDE OUTPUT

Output from the Fort Hills mine also jumped almost 50,000 bbl/day to 196,000 bbl/day in May, right in line with the facility's design capacity. Fort Hills produces a fungible diluted bitumen product, sold directly to refineries without being processed through an upgrader.

 

FORT HILLS MINE — BITUMEN PRODUCTION AND RECOVERY

 

YEAR-TO-DATE PERFORMANCE

So far this year, Syncrude has averaged 384,000 bbl/day of bitumen, also slightly above its total nameplate of 375,000 bbl/day. Syncrude's mining operations include both its base plant operations at Mildred Lake, and the Aurora Mine. Both mines averaged over 400,000 bbl/day in May, well above total design capacity.

SYNCRUDE MILDRED LAKE — BITUMEN PRODUCTION AND RECOVERY

SYNCRUDE AURORA NORTH — BITUMEN PRODUCTION AND RECOVERY

CNRL's Albian Sands mining operations is also running slightly above its nameplate of 255,000 bbl/day, averaging 267,000 bbl/day for the first five months of this year. Albian consists of both the Muskeg River Mine, and adjacent Jackpine facility. Bitumen produced at both facilities is pipelined to the Scotford upgrader near Edmonton, operated by Shell Canada. 

MUSKEG RIVER MINE — BITUMEN PRODUCTION AND RECOVERY

JACKPINE MINE — BITUMEN PRODUCTION AND RECOVERY

Mining and upgrading data is updated monthly, two months in arrears. The full datasets, dating back to January 2008, are available for download.

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