County told Total development unlikely for next decade

By MorinvilleNews.com Staff

Sturgeon County – An alliance between Total E&P Canada Ltd. and Suncor Energy Inc. may bode well for $30 billion in oil sands projects in the province, but the union creates some bad news for Sturgeon and Strathcona Counties.

Gary Houston, vice president of Total’s Midstream and Upgrading, told Sturgeon County Council Tuesday the company’s upgrader approved for Strathcona County would not be needed for the next decade and that the company’s land holdings in Sturgeon County were also unlikely to be developed any time soon.

“Rest assured we’re not going to let that investment sink into the ground and disappear,” Houston told Council. “We’re going to have to get creative.”

Houston said his company was not the type to turn tail and leave the area, but joked that their land holdings in Sturgeon County might be an astute buy for the right industry to take advantage of.

Sturgeon County Mayor Don Rigney said he was disappointed the upgrader would not be built in the Industrial Heartland, but said he was pleased the company was working in the province.

“We worked hard over the last 10 years to attract industry,” Rigney said of the County’s efforts to get a piece of the upgrader pie. “A lot of pieces are in place, just not the market forces.”

Total’s strategic alliance, originally announced Dec. 17, covers the Suncor-operated Fort Hills mining project, the Total-operated Joslyn mining project and Suncor’s Voyageur upgrader project, all of which are in the Athabasca region.

The agreements, set to be finalized in March, would give Suncor 36.75 per cent of Total’s interest in the Joselyn project. Total will pick up 19.2 per cent of Suncor’s interest in Fort Hills and a 49 per cent stake in the Voyageur upgrader project near Fort McMurray. Total will pay Suncor $1.7 billion to balance the portfolio, an investment that particularly addresses money already spent on the Voyageur upgrader project.

Approximately $4 billion has been spent on the upgrader project to date. Houston anticipates another $9 to $10 billion will be spent over the next seven years to bring the Voyageur project online.

Houston told Sturgeon County Council the partnership hopes to have the Fort Hills project on stream by 2016. He said the three projects represent a $30 billion investment in Alberta.

“We’re looking at another golden age of development in the oil sands industry,” Houston said.

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