Japex postpones oil sands expansion project to mid-2017

Japan Petroleum Exploration (Japex) said Tuesday it will postpone launching its Hangingstone oil sands expansion project in Alberta, Canada, until mid-2017, which will result in a cost increase for the venture estimated in Cdn$250 million ($187M).

The oil and gas developer’s subsidiary, Japan Canada OilSands Limited (Jacos), said the part of the concession known as the 3.75 section will remain closed.

Investment in the expansion project is expected to increase to Cdn$1.5 billion from Cdn$1.25 billion.

The Hangingstone thermal oil sands operation, one of Canada's oldest, was shut down during the wildfires in Fort McMurray and the company said it will remain dormant until benchmark oil prices rise above $50 per barrel.

The firm will however continue developing the untouched area that is part of the Hangingstone Lease, adjacent to the demonstration area, currently shut.

It also noted that Jacos’ investment in the expansion project is expected to increase to Cdn$1.5 billion from Cdn$1.25 billion.

Hangingstone, in operations since 1999, was built with capacity of 10,000 barrels per day to test the use of steam to produce bitumen from wells but had been producing only about half of that in recent years.

Jacos aims to produce 20,000 barrels per day of bitumen from its $1.8-billion Hangingstone expansion project, originally slated to be completed by the end of this year.  At full capacity, Canada's oil sands industry generates about 2.5 million bpd.

Japex holds a 75% stake in the venture, and Nexen — the Canadian subsidiary of China's CNOOC Ltd — owns the rest.