​‘This project is vital to our region’: Cold Lake urges approval of Imperial oilsands expansion

Cold Lake mayor Craig Copeland. Image: Bonnyville Nouvelle

The City of Cold Lake is calling on the Government of Alberta to speed up the regulatory approval for the latest expansion of Imperial Oil’s nearby thermal oilsands project.

Imperial applied last March for approval of a 55,000 bbl/d expansion at Cold Lake using solvent-assisted SAGD, a technology it has been testing for several years.

In its most recent performance presentation to the AER, Imperial said its SA-SAGD pilot had achieved cumulative oil production of 962,676 barrels of bitumen, estimating that its ultimate recovery could be 40-50 percent of the original bitumen in place.

In the past the company has said developing the expansion would involve an initial $2.2 billion investment and could lead to the eventual development of a project as large as its existing operation, which currently produces about 160,000 bbls/d.

Cold Lake council, which is also in a verbal battle with the provincial government over its recent decision to withdraw annual funding of about $10 million for the city — about 33 percent of its annual funding — said the project expansion would provide a needed boost to its economy.

“We have heard that there has been no movement on Imperial Oil’s Cold Lake expansion project in the last year and a half,” Mayor Craig Copeland said in a statement.

“This project is vital to our region, which has been hard hit by the lingering economic downturn. We are asking for the status of the project and what our government can do to help this file along.”

Copeland said it was the city’s understanding that there has been little opposition to the expansion.

“With new, high-paying jobs at stake, we find it hard (to understand) that so little progress could be made on this file,” Copeland said. “Our council is seeking a deeper understanding of why we are not hearing about any positive progress on this project.”

The expansion would create 500 jobs during the two to three-year construction phase and 100 permanent jobs.

“The expansion project would be a massive boost to our economy in northeastern Alberta,” Copeland said. ”We need to hear something about this project because, in our area, a lot of hopes are resting on finally hearing some good news.”

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