September 13, 2017 4:12 pm
Updated: September 13, 2017 7:29 pm

New oilsands project opens near Fort McMurray as industry confidence in economy builds

WATCH ABOVE: A new oilsands site owned and operated by a Japanese company is a multi-billion dollar bet Alberta's economy is back on track. Tom Vernon explains.

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Company representatives and politicians marked the official opening of the Japan Canada Oil Sands Ltd. (JACOS) Hangingstone project in northern Alberta on Wednesday.

“Good jobs for Albertans, billions of dollars in new investment and a growing economy — that’s what this expansion project means,” Premier Rachel Notley said.

READ MORE: Could Alberta’s oil industry be rebounding? 

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JACOS is expanding production of ultra-heavy crude oil at its Hangingstone site in partnership with Nexen. Both companies are aiming to produce about 20,000 barrels of bitumen a day by the end of 2018. The first delivery of bitumen actually arrived in Edmonton Wednesday morning.

Officials are heralding the launch as a good sign for Alberta.

“These industry leaders, several of them talk about how they still have a tremendous amount of confidence in the economic case and their ability to move forward in a sustainable way,” the premier said.

“It was a great vote of confidence in this community, in this industry and frankly, in Alberta.”

The president of JACOS said the project should encourage other international investors who might be looking at opportunities in Alberta’s oilsands, despite the recent economic challenges.

“It’s a significant opportunity,” Satoshi Abe said.

“This [down] cycle is a little bit longer than we expected but I believe that it’s coming back and we should be ready for that time.”

READ MORE: Alberta premier says no time for oilsands shutdown talk as she pushes pipelines

The province estimates 400 direct and indirect jobs were created by construction of the oilsands project. The facility currently employs 190 people.

“This kind of project is exactly the kind of project that will be able to grow, grow prosperity for all Albertans as they’re able to get access to more diverse markets,” Notley said.

READ MORE: Key dates that shaped Alberta’s oilsands 

The steam-assisted gravity drainage project came from the largest investment made in Alberta by the company in its 40-year history in the province. It’s also the largest investment made globally by JACOS’ parent company, Tokyo-based Japan Petroleum Exploration Company.

“All energy companies around the world know we have to address the concern of climate change,” Abe said.

“We know that people are going to need a responsible, sustainably produced source of petrochemicals for many, many, many years to come,” Notley said. “I think there are great opportunities.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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