Shell's Athabasca Oil Sands Resumes Full Production

Shell Canada reports that the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP) has returned to full bitumen and synthetic crude production design rates, ahead of schedule, following the replacement of a damaged conveyor belt at the mine.

On February 24, 2006, a major tear was discovered in the conveyor belt that transports ore from the crushers in the mine to the bitumen extraction plant. Using an undamaged portion of the belt, the mine maintained production at approximately one-third of design rate until a full shutdown was initiated on March 14, 2006 to install a new belt. Belt installation proceeded more quickly than anticipated and both the mine and upgrader have now returned to full design rates. A root cause analysis of the conveyor belt tear was conducted and changes in maintenance practices and belt operating procedures have been implemented at the mine.

The Scotford Upgrader was also able to sustain production at approximately one-third of design rate since the belt failure on February 24, 2006. Shell's Scotford Refinery, which receives synthetic crude from the upgrader, successfully secured alternate feedstock and customer supply was not an issue during this period.

The AOSP consists of the Muskeg River Mine, located about 75 kilometers north of Fort McMurray, Alberta and the Scotford Upgrader, located near Fort Saskatchewan, northeast of Edmonton. The AOSP is a joint venture among Shell Canada Limited (60 per cent), Chevron Canada Limited (20 per cent) and Western Oil Sands L.P. (20 per cent). The Scotford Refinery, located adjacent to the Scotford Upgrader, is owned 100 percent by Shell Canada Limited.