Oil Sands Mining & Upgrading

Oil Sands Mining & Upgrading

The Company owns and operates substantial world class oil sands mining assets. The Horizon Oil Sands and the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP) are located approximately 70 km north of Fort McMurray, Alberta in the Athabasca region. These assets offer decades of no decline synthetic crude oil (SCO) production with no reserve risk. Canadian Natural holds extensive leases that are estimated to hold approximately 6.9 billion barrels of proved and probable SCO reserves on a Company Gross basis. The two mine sites are adjacent to one another allowing the Company to take advantage of certain synergies through the power of our performance driven culture. The Company continues to focus on maximizing value through continuous improvement and adoption of technology to deliver safe, steady, reliable SCO production.


Select Horizon on the map to learn more.

The Horizon Oil Sands include a surface oil sands mining and bitumen extraction plant, complemented by on-site bitumen upgrading with associated infrastructure to produce high quality SCO. In late 2017, the Phase 3 expansion was completed at Horizon, the final step in the Company's transition to a Long Life Low Decline asset base. In 2020, the Company is evaluating opportunities to increase reliability, lower costs and add production growth in the near and long-term.

In the third quarter of 2018, the Company acquired the Joslyn Oil Sands project, referred to as the Joslyn lease, which is located directly south of the Company’s current Horizon Oil Sands operations. The Joslyn lease has the potential to add significant long life low decline reserves as well cost savings through the extension of existing Horizon South Pit operations. The lease-line development opportunities reduce the need to relocate the Horizon operation to the North Pit, resulting in targeted cost savings of over $500 million. At Canadian Natural’s Horizon operations, there are significant opportunities to enhance capacity and increase reliability. The Company continues to progress engineering work on a prudent basis for potential expansion opportunities at Horizon to increase reliability and lower costs, targeting to add production of 75,000 bbl/d to 95,000 bbl/d. The final investment decision on these opportunities will not be made until there is greater clarity on market access.

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, Canadian Natural has delayed the field pilot of the In Pit Extraction Process (IPEP) at Horizon. The IPEP project replaces the traditional bitumen extraction process by processing the bitumen right at the mine face. The targeted extraction facilities are modular components that can be moved with the mine face. Canadian Natural is confident in the results from the initial testing phase of the pilot, which shows excellent recovery rates and evidence of stackable tailings. This project, if successful, has the potential to reduce mining costs by $2.00-$3.00 per barrel, and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions  from the mine, and eliminate the need for tailings ponds.

Canadian Natural’s oil sands mining portfolio includes its 70% operated working interest in the AOSP mines and 70% non-operated interest in the Scotford Upgrader, located north of Edmonton. Combined, the two mines at the AOSP produce diluted bitumen via a paraffinic froth treatment process. Produced bitumen is then shipped via the Corridor pipeline to the Scotford Upgrader where it is upgraded via LC Fining technology to SCO, which is sold in the Edmonton refining complex. In addition to the AOSP assets, the Company also owns a 70% interest in the Quest Carbon Capture & Storage facility near Scotford, further demonstrating the Company’s commitment to environmental leadership. Canadian Natural has increased gross production capacity at the Albian mines ("Albian") through optimization projects, process improvements, and enhanced reliability.  As a result, the Scotford upgrader is targeting to increase upgrading capacity to approximately 320,000 bbl/d in Q3/20.  This additional capacity at AOSP is targeted to provide Canadian Natural with increased margins and flexibility, maximizing the value of the Company's Oil Sands Mining and Upgrading assets.