​Canadian Natural to spend $75 million on autonomous oilsands hauler field test

Image: Joey Podlubny/JWN

Technology and options to increase future oil production took centre stage at Canadian Natural Resources Limited’s investor day on Wednesday.

Scott Stauth, chief operating officer for oilsands, fleshed out the company’s plan to test driverless oilsands mining trucks, which was initially revealed last spring.

The autonomous haulers are already in place at rival Suncor Energy Inc.'s mines and Imperial Oil Ltd. said recently it plans to experiment with up to seven of the trucks at its Kearl mine.

Canadian Natural plans to spend about $75 million on a field trial at its Jackpine Mine in late 2020, Stauth said.

“Assuming we are satisfied with the results of the three-truck trial at Jackpine, we would convert all trucks at Jackpine to autonomous by 2022, followed by Muskeg River Mine and Horizon in 2025," said Stauth.

“With an incremental capital cost of $275 million to $325 million, we target our operating costs to be reduced by 30 to 50 cents per barrel once complete."

Canadian Natural has 18 trucks at Jackpine and a total of about 140 at all three mines.

The company is encouraged by results from its 500-tonne-per-hour pilot project to separate bitumen from sand in the mining pit using a portable processing unit, rather than transporting it to a central processing facility, and plans to continue to test it in 2019 before building a larger commercial-sized plant in 2020, Stauth said.

The technology could reduce mining costs by $2 to $3 per barrel, cut greenhouse gas emissions "significantly" through less trucking, and reduce the need for tailings ponds, he said.

© 2018 The Canadian Press