This Article is part of the Tar Sands Reporting Project special report See the full report

Koch brothers' Canadian company moves to exploit oil sands gold rush

Area in blue, blocked out by Dunkirk River, site of proposed in situ oil sands project for Koch Canada. Detail from map prepared for Koch Oil Sands Operation ULC Canada.

Koch Canada Exploration intends to file for a commercial oil development project west of Fort McKay called the Dunkirk project, and has begun consultation with the neighbouring Ft. McKay First Nation, a representative of the Fort McKay First Nation confirmed this week. Fort McKay is located 65 kilometres north of Fort McMurray. 

"We are currently engaged in consultation with the company.  Consultation with the company has been very good to date," Daniel Stuckless, Manager of Environment and Regulatory, for the Fort McKay Sustainability Department, told the Vancouver Observer.

The site is 76 kilometres from Fort McMurray. Bev New, President of the Metis Nation of Alberta Region V, wrote Jennifer Bordyniuk of Koch Operating Oil Sands ULC to express concern about caribou herds near the proposed Dunkirk project last month, noting that the Metis had not yet been consulted.

"We have spotted caribou in the last year near the area of the proposed Dunkirk project," New wrote.

Although Koch Oil Sands Operating ULC began reaching out to relevant stakeholders last January, the project has remained under the radar, despite a widely-read report  in the Washington Post that apparently incorrectly claimed the Kochs are the largest foreign oil sands leaseholders.  The Koch brothers' companies are now thought to be only one of the largest foreign oil sands leaseholders in Canada.

 Aerial photograph of oil sands mine for the Vancouver Observer by Andrew S. Wright   

Koch quietly filed an application last year with the Alberta Energy Regulator to develop a steam-assisted gravity drainage (known as SAGD in situ) oil extraction project that would have two equal phases totaling 60,000 barrels a day. Pending approval, construction will start in the fourth quarter of 2016 and production would begin two years later.

According to the Alberta Energy Regulator website, the Koch Oil Sands company has other applications underway. 

Roxanne Rees, media representative for Koch Oil Sands Operating ULC, in Calgary, confirmed the company's plans.  
 
"Is the Fort McKay Dunkirk project the only SAGD project at Koch Oil Sands  in Alberta currently?" the Vancouver Observer asked.
 
After a long pause, Rees answered, with a laugh, "sort of."
 
"Sort of? So there are others?"
 
"Well, sort of...," Reese repeated. "You probably saw an environmental request, the announcement (for Fort McKay). That's one of the first steps you make when you're planning a project. But, there are others."
 
"What stage are they at? The environmental assessment stage?"
 
"They're not even that far. Any of the information you're looking for is available at the Alberta Energy [Regulator] website. You can download all the applications." 
 
"So this one is the furthest along, would you say?" 
 
"Yes," Reese said.
 

With files from Jenny Uechi

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