When Shell Canada produces its first barrel of synthetic crude from the Oil Sands sometime next year, it will join a very small group of companies. If a ‘club’ for synthetic crude producers existed, Shell’s efforts would have earned its membership by virtue of decades of work, billions of dollars, and more than a little of the proverbial ‘blood, sweat and tears’.

Fig. 01

Shell’s story and experiences in the Oil Sands are not only a testament of tenacity, but also a good example of the myriad challenges developers face. “Oil sands projects are not ‘slam dunks’ and certainly not for the faint of heart,” says Neil Camarta, Senior Vice President, Shell Oil Sands, and leader of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP). “It takes courage, deep pockets, staying power and experience in the building and operation of mega-projects.”

Specific focus during this presentation will be given to:

  • The Athabasca Oil Sands Project, associated expansion and proposed Jackpine Mine (which could provide up to 25% of Canada’s oil requirements.)
  • Mega-project development. Oil Sands projects are world scale in every dimension – including some significant risks that must be carefully managed, including large capital investments, high execution risk, product market availability and pricing, operational, financial market support and fiscal take.
  • The stakeholder support needed for oil sands mega-projects, including consultation and commitments required around greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. Shell Canada Climate Change Advisory Panel).



About the Author(s)

Neil Camarta was born in Edmonton, Alberta in 1953 and grew up on a farm in the northern area of the province. He graduated from the University of Alberta in 1975 with a degree in Chemical Engineering. He joined Shell Canada as an engineer in 1975 and has held various technical and management roles – primarily in gas production. In 1987 he became Manager of Oil and Gas Business Development with responsibilities which included the development of Shell Canada’s frontier oil and gas reserves. In 1989, Neil became Manager of Planning for Shell International Gas Limited and Shell Coal International Limited in London with responsibility for the strategic planning of Shell’s global gas and coal businesses.

In 1991, Neil transferred to South Africa where he was responsible for running Shell’s coal and natural gas businesses in southern Africa. In 1994, Neil returned to Canada to take on the responsibility of managing Shell Canada’s Corporate Strategies group. In March 1996, Neil took on the additional responsibility of pulling together a major new oil sands mining project on Shell Canada’s oil sands leases in Fort McMurray. In late 1999, Shell and it’s joint venture partners, Chevron Canada Resources and Western Oil Sands Inc. gave the go-ahead for the Athabasca Oil Sands Project. First bitumen from the multibillion dollar joint venture is expected in late 2002.

Neil was named Senior Vice President, Oil Sands, in December, 1999.



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