* Total, Suncor plan two oil sands mines, upgrader
* Decisions expected in 2013
* Pleased with current ConocoPhillips partnership
By Jeffrey Jones
CALGARY, Alberta, Oct 2 Total SA is
content with the pace of developing its Canadian oil sands
assets even as Suncor Energy Inc, its joint venture
partner, said it was in no rush to bring a host of
multibillion-dollar projects on line, an executive said on
Jean-Michel Gires, head of Total's Canadian unit, said the
French oil major is not looking to bulk up on more northern
Alberta oil sands assets as it and Suncor move forward with
studying two mines and an upgrading plant.
"We want to take advantage of the inputs of the two
companies in this partnership ... that is what we are doing. We
are 18 months after the initial agreement and we are very
pleased with the way this progressed," Gires told reporters
after speaking to a business audience.
Total and Suncor are conducting the front-end engineering
work on the Joslyn and Fort Hills mines and Voyageur upgrader
that would process up to 200,000 barrels a day of production,
and the companies have said they aim to make go-ahead decisions
some time next year.
Suncor Chief Executive Steve Williams said in July that he
would no longer commit to an ambitious corporate growth program
that would have seen output nearly double by the end of the
decade to 1 million barrels a day, saying he was not interested
in "growth for growth's sake."
He also said each of the projects would be evaluated on its
own merits, not necessarily as a package, amid speculation that
decisions could be pushed to the end of the year.
Williams made the comments as fears grew across the industry
that inflation that plagued oil sands development in the last
decade were returning as more projects move forward, driving up
labor and materials costs.
Gires said he would not give a target date for approving the
projects. He said Total and Suncor are making progress with the
engineering and making sure the developments are "aligned with
"It's more important that we can deliver good projects and
make them profitable and align them correctly, so that's what we
are up to for the time being," he said.
Meanwhile, Gires said he believes Total it has enough
projects to develop in Canada, including its Surmont
steam-driven development, a joint venture with ConocoPhillips
. A second phase at Surmont is expected to boost output
from 25,000 barrels a day to 136,000 barrels a day by 2015.
ConocoPhillips has a half share of its interest on the
auction block along with stakes in a host of other undeveloped
oil sands leases. Last month, sources said a trio of Indian
companies led by Oil and Natural Gas Corp bid $5
billion for the assets, though ConocoPhillips declined to
Gires also would not say if Total was interested in the
properties, which would be developed using steam-assisted
gravity drainage technology, where steam is injected into the
earth so the bitumen can be pumped to the surface.
"For the time being we have 50 percent of this asset. We're
very pleased as well with the partnership with ConocoPhillips.
The two companies have learned a lot about SAGD and in situ
developments. We are on a very promising lease that can deliver
probably other steps later on than just Surmont 1 and Surmont
2," he said.