Approximately 80% of Canada's oil sands are too deep to mine and must be tapped using in situ production, which is similar to conventional oil production. Increased in situ production is a key part of Suncor's plans to increase bitumen supply while reducing costs and our impact on the environment.
At MacKay River and Firebag (named after the traditional bags Aboriginal Peoples once used to carry fire-starting flints), Suncor uses steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD):
- Parallel pairs of horizontal wells are drilled: one for steam injection and one for oil recovery.
- Recovered bitumen is sent by pipeline to our upgrading facility.
- MacKay River began producing oil in 2002.
- Firebag stages 1 and 2 began producing oil in 2004 and 2006 respectively. Firebag stage 3 began producing oil in 2011.
- Firebag stage 4 began producing first oil in December 2012.
In situ development has important benefits:
- Resource access. In situ technology opens up the potential to recover large reserves that can't be reached economically by traditional mining methods. An independent evaluation of Suncor's in situ leases estimates recoverable resources with a potential to produce about nine billion barrels of crude oil.
- Staged growth. In situ technology has the advantage of being well-suited to development in smaller increments, making costs and schedules more manageable.
- Reduced environmental footprint. MacKay River and Firebag use recycled water in a closed system for steam generation. No additional surface or groundwater is required and no tailings ponds are created. In situ development disturbs only about 15% of the surface land in the development area.
- Potential for lower costs. In situ technology is a proven, but relatively young, technology. As Suncor gains experience with operating MacKay River and Firebag, and as we continue to invest in research and development, we believe there is potential to reduce the costs of recovery.
This website contains forward-looking statements that address expectations or projections about the future. Forward-looking statements are based on Suncor's current goals, expectations, estimates, projections and assumptions made in light of its experiences and the risks, uncertainties and other factors related to its business. Assumptions used to develop our outlook are based on year-to-date performance and management's best estimates for the remainder of the year. Readers are cautioned that actual results could differ materially from those expressed or implied as a result of changes to Suncor's plans and the impact of events, risks and uncertainties discussed in Suncor's current annual information form/form 40-F, annual and quarterly reports to shareholders and other documents filed with Canadian securities commissions at the System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval (SEDAR) and the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The forward-looking statements speak only as of the date the website was accessed and Suncor undertakes no duty to update these statements to reflect subsequent changes in assumptions (or the trends or factors underlying them) or actual events or experience.