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Shelved Suncor thermal oilsands project gets approval from Alberta government

Suncor Energy Inc. logo at the company's annual meeting in Calgaryo on April 27, 2017. Suncor Energy Inc. says its on-again, off-again plan to add a coker unit to its Montreal refinery to allow it to process heavier barrels of oil, including oilsands bitumen, is off the table again as it shuffles priorities in its long list of production growth projects. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh.
Suncor Energy Inc. logo at the company's annual meeting in Calgaryo on April 27, 2017. Suncor Energy Inc. says its on-again, off-again plan to add a coker unit to its Montreal refinery to allow it to process heavier barrels of oil, including oilsands bitumen, is off the table again as it shuffles priorities in its long list of production growth projects. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

The Alberta government has approved an application by Suncor Energy Inc. to build a 40,000-barrel-per-day thermal oilsands project but construction is unlikely to start any time soon.

The province says in a news release that the Meadow Creek West project 40 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, which would use steam to produce bitumen from wells, can now apply for environmental and local development permits.

READ MORE: Suncor Energy files for Alberta oilsands project approval

Suncor CEO Mark Little, however, said earlier this month his company plans to delay development of Meadow Creek West and the previously approved 80,000-bpd Meadow Creek East projects until 2023 at the earliest because it is focusing on lower cost expansions of its existing oilsands facilities.

Watch below: Some Global News videos involving Suncor.

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The Suncor approval comes a day after a Calgary judge ordered the province to render a decision within 10 days on the 10,000-bpd Rigel thermal oilsands project proposed by privately held Prosper Petroleum Ltd.

READ MORE: Alberta government given 10 days to make decision on Rigel oilsands project

The project received approval from the Alberta Energy Regulator in June 2018 but has not received needed cabinet approval — a delay that Justice Barbara Romaine found to be unreasonable given that an average project takes about seven months to be approved or denied.

The province has said it will appeal the 10-day deadline ruling.