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Globe and Mail (Canada): Oil sands upstart plans $4-billion project

BY DAVID EBNER

CALGARY — Value Creation Inc., a small oil sands upstart, is proposing a $4-billion project to produce 80,000 barrels of crude a day, starting in 2011, and the company believes its land in northeastern Alberta could eventually support output of 400,000 barrels a day.

“Our large wholly owned oil sands resource base positions Value Creation to become a major oil sands player,” Columba Yeung, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement on Wednesday morning.

Calgary-based Value Creation, which is privately held, has filed what is called a project disclosure document with the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board and the provincial government’s environment department.

The company would upgrade its raw oil sands production at a facility near Edmonton being built by BA Energy Inc., a subsidiary that aims to have its Heartland upgrader operating next year.

Value Creation plans to extract bitumen from the oil sands by drilling wells and injecting steam to coax the resource to the surface, as the crude is too deep in the ground to mine. The company suggested it wouldn’t need to use expensive natural gas for power to generate steam, instead burning byproducts from bitumen production, which the company said “will lead to an unusually low operating cost.”

The firm has staked its future on technology advances, particularly at the BA Energy upgrader. Mr. Yeung, who is also chairman and CEO of BA Energy, is the driving force behind the companies and is the inventor of technology that is supposed to make the upgrader the lowest-cost facility in Alberta. Mr. Yeung is an engineer who spent his career with Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Shell Canada Ltd., where he helped lead the design of that company’s oil sands upgrader.

The planned 80,000 barrels-a-day project would be built in two stages, Value Creation said, at a site north of Fort McMurray called Terre de Grace. The area could support a further 240,000 barrels a day, Value Creation said, and other land the company holds could generate an additional 80,000 barrels, for an eventual total of 400,000.

“Our technologies and creativity will differentiate us as a smart oil sands developer,” Mr. Yeung said. “BA Energy’s merchant upgrader will commercially prove our breakthrough upgrading technologies, and [Terre de Grace] will demonstrate further value enhancement with the creative, synergistic application of our technologies. This represents another milestone in our quest to be a pre-eminent, full-value-chain player in oil sands development.”

Value Creation was founded in 1999. In late 2005, Enbridge Inc., Canada’s biggest oil pipeline company, invested $25-million for a minority stake in Value Creation as part of a partnership to help move the company’s planned production and find buyers for the oil.

Value Creation has had some struggles. BA Energy wanted to raise $230-million in an initial public offering but pulled the deal late last year and is now looking at doing an IPO this year at $115-million.

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