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May 22, 2007

Canada nuclear oilsands update

Royal Dutch Shell PLC is looking at nuclear power to support its experimental oil sands ambitions, on which it has already placed a bet of more than half a billion dollars.

Note: This looks like a done deal. Shell is the customer. The local town does not oppose it. The provincial and federal government on board. The 60 billion barrels in this one area is close to the level of Venezuela's oil reserves. Four times bigger than Qatar's 15 billion barrels

Theoildrum has posted my article on Canada's nuclear oilsands

This is further follow up to a study of how many nuclear reactors will be needed by the oilsands

The company, through a secretive Calgary-based subsidiary called Sure Northern Energy Ltd., is working to unlock an estimated 60 billion barrels of raw bitumen - more than 100 kilometres west of the oil sands epicentre around Fort McMurray in northeastern Alberta.

The prize Royal Dutch is chasing is bitumen trapped in hard-rock limestone, rather than the conventional oil sands around Fort McMurray where bitumen is mixed with dirt and sandstone.

Royal Dutch is working on electric heaters below ground to loosen up the gooey bitumen to draw it to the surface through wells.

The firm is trying to commercialize what it calls a "novel thermal recovery process" invented by Shell's technology arm.

Husky Energy Inc., which has publicly expressed an interest in harnessing nuclear power, is the other major player in the area, and has said it wants to partner with Royal Dutch, which is leading the new technology.

Royal Dutch's Sure Northern unit didn't return several calls seeking comment. It is the only company actively working on bitumen in limestone. Other firms in the conventional oil sands, such as Total SA of France, have expressed interest in nuclear power.

One unnamed company is looking to take 70 per cent of the output from Energy Alberta's proposed $6.2-billion twin nuclear reactor that would start producing 2,200 megawatts in 2016. The reactor design exists only on a drawing board and the amount of power is equal to about a fifth of Alberta's electricity supply.

Industry players have wondered about those locations, given their distance from Fort McMurray, but both sites are relatively close to Royal Dutch's limestone ambitions.

Last week, Energy Alberta held a public meeting on the proposed plant in Whitecourt, drawing about 300 people, with less than five dissenters among the crowd, according to Mr. Henuset. A nuclear reactor promises construction jobs for about 2,000 people with as many as 1,000 permanent, high-tech jobs.

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