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Fort McMurray oilsands project shelved

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by Journal Of Commerce last update:Aug 26, 2014

Total E&P Canada is putting its Joslyn oilsands project northwest of Fort McMurray, Alta., on hold indefinitely, saying Thursday that the economics aren't good enough to move ahead.

The decision means 150 jobs will be cut by the end of this year, but CEO Andre Goffart said some of those workers may be moved to other parts of the French energy giant’s global operations.

On a conference call with reporters, Goffart said the challenges Joslyn is facing aren’t confined to that project alone.

“Costs are continuing to inflate, when the oil price – and specifically the netbacks for the oilsands – are remaining stable at best, thus, squeezing the margins. We see that this situation cannot be sustainable in the long term,” he said.

“We know that mining projects are challenging. New mining projects are all megaprojects and they are very capital intensive...There is a clear shift now from the industry on cost discipline and return on investment versus the pace of development.”

Total and the project’s minority partners will now spend time trying to find ways to drive down costs at Joslyn, but there is no timeline for when it may be revived.

“We believe that the best way to unlock this project is not to wait for the price increase, but to work proactively on cost optimization, and that’s what we are doing, he said.

Goffart said the other partners – Suncor Energy Inc., Occidental Petroleum and Inpex Canada – all agree it was best to put Joslyn on ice for now.

The project’s price tag was most recently pegged at $11 billion. It had aimed to start producing 160,000 barrels a day toward the end of the decade. It received regulatory approval in 2011 after a lengthy process.

Another oilsands venture involving Total, the Suncor-operated Fort Hills oilsands mine, got the go-ahead in October.

Fort Hills is expected to cost $13.5 billion and start producing oil in 2017.

Total and Suncor have opted to scrap their Voyageur oilsands upgrader altogether. Joslyn, Fort Hills and Voyaguer were part of a joint-venture deal Suncor and Total inked in late 2010.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2014

last update:Aug 26, 2014

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