If there was any doubt that Canadian Natural Resources is now one of the biggest oil producers in Canada, one of its projects entered into a small, elite club this week based entirely on its magnitude of production.

The Athabasca Oil Sands Project, which Canadian Natural purchased from Shell last year, has now produced one billion barrels of mined bitumen since its start up in 2003.

It’s one of just a handful of Canadian projects to reach this milestone.

Others include Syncrude, which produced its billionth barrel in April 1998; Suncor’s oilsands base operations, which produced their billionth barrel in January 2006; Imperial Oil’s Cold Lake thermal oilsands project, which achieved one billion barrels in 2009; and Hibernia, offshore Newfoundland and Labrador, which marked its one-billionth barrel in December 2016.

Syncrude reports that its cumulative production now exceeds 2.4 billion barrels.

The AOSP’s achievement is the combined production of the project’s Muskeg River and Jackpine mines. Together the mines have production capacity of 255,000 bbls/d.

“This is a significant milestone and demonstrates the size and scale of Canada's oilsands mining operations,” Canadian Natural president Tim McKay said in a statement.

“The oilsands, through responsible development, provide sustainable long life low decline production and significant value for stakeholders. This milestone could not have been achieved without the dedication of the employees and contractors who focus on safe, reliable operations, while minimizing our environmental footprint to ensure long term sustainable development."

Image: Joey Podlubny/JWN