Alberta expects big rise in oil sands production

Wed Jun 20, 2012 2:32pm EDT
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Alberta's Energy Resources Conservation Board said on Wednesday it expects output from the province's oil sands to more than double by 2021, while conventional oil production last year rose for the first time in 16 years.

The board, which regulates the province's oil and gas industry, said it expects oil sands production of 3.7 million barrels per day in nine years, 2 million bpd higher than the output in 2011.

The forecast is similar to one released earlier this month by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which predicted oil sands production of 3.1 million bpd by 2020, about the same as current oil output from Iran, OPEC's No. 2 producer.

The oil sands are the world's third-largest crude reserve, behind Venezuela and Saudi Arabia but the biggest open to investment by private oil companies. The production increase will come on new projects and expansions planned by Suncor Energy Inc, Total SA, Imperial Oil Ltd, PetroChina and others.

In its annual look at the province's reserves and production expectations, the board also said that conventional oil production in 2011 rose 7 percent from the previous year to an average 490,000 bpd. It was the first rise in conventional oil output since 1995 and came on higher production from horizontal wells, the board said.

Alberta's reserves of oil sands bitumen and conventional crude stood at 170.2 billion barrels at the end of 2011, including 168.6 billion barrels of bitumen and conventional reserves of 1.5 billion barrels

Natural gas reserves stood at 33.5 trillion cubic feet at the end of last year and the province has 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas liquids.

(Reporting by Scott Haggett; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Sofina Mirza-Reid)