​New Fort Hills oilsands mine now in operation: Suncor

Ore preparation units at the Fort Hills oilsands mine. Image: Suncor Energy

Four months after celebrating the 50th anniversary of starting up the first commercial oilsands mine, Suncor Energy is marking the commencement of its brand-new $17-billion operation, Fort Hills.

The start of ongoing operations at the 194,000 bbl/d joint venture between Suncor, Total and Teck was previously expected before the end of 2017, but the project experienced delays in completing its secondary extraction unit.

In secondary extraction, bitumen froth from primary extraction is mixed with solvents to remove heavier portions and then prepared for shipping. So far Fort Hills has produced 1.4 million barrels of bitumen froth from this process, Suncor said.

Now the first of three trains from secondary extraction is online and production on this train will continue to ramp up through the first quarter, the company said on Monday.

The second and third trains of secondary extraction are being insulated and expected to start up in the first half of 2018, as planned, Suncor said, with the project on track to reach 90 percent of capacity by the end of 2018.

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