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Royal Dutch Shell Opens Second Front in the Oil Sands

A unit of Royal Dutch Shell, Shell Exploration & Production in the Americas (Shell EP Americas), has formed a wholly-owned venture to acquire, evaluate and develop oil sands resources.

The new company, SURE Northern Energy (SURE Northern), a Canadian corporation, acquired 10 parcels of oil sands land in the February Oil Sands Public Offering for a price of C$465 million (about US$400 million)—the highest price paid yet for oil sands. SURE acquired the property anonymously through a land agent.

We are delighted to have secured this heavy oil acreage. Royal Dutch Shell has a suite of both enhanced and new heavy oil technologies that we could potentially apply to this type of resource. While not all of these technologies are commercially proven, we believe there is significant potential for us to pursue this opportunity and the first step is to further appraise this resource.

—Marvin Odum, Executive Vice President, Shell EP Americas

Shell is already a major participant in oil sands development through Shell Canada, in which it is the major shareholder. Shell Canada owns 60% of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project, which produces about 155,000 barrels of synthetic crude a day from an oil sands mine near Fort McMurray, Alberta, and an upgrading refinery near Edmonton, Alberta.

Shell Canada also plans to boost output from the Athabasca project to 500,000 barrels a day.

This move represents a distinct opportunity to assess new and emerging technology. It complements our existing strong position in Canadian oil sands through Shell Canada Limited (SCL). The establishment of SURE Northern does not change the relationship between Royal Dutch Shell and Shell Canada, and as the major shareholder in Shell Canada (SCL), Royal Dutch Shell maintains its full support for SCL’s ongoing business, and its strong commitment to SCL’s future success and growth.

—Marvin Odum

SURE is planning in-situ production of its oil sands resources, which are too deep for mining. The company is planning appraisal wells for this year.


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