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CNRL Aims to Cut Costs with Driverless Truck Field Test

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Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) will spend C$75 million by late 2020 to field test driverless haulers at its Jackpine tar sands/oil sands mine in northern Alberta, Chief Operating Officer, Oilsands Scott Stauth told investors earlier this month.

Assuming we are satisfied with the results of the three-truck trial at Jackpine, we would convert all trucks at Jackpine to autonomous by 2022, followed by Muskeg River Mine and Horizon in 2025,” Stauth said. The conversion would initially cost the company $275 to $325 million, but cut its operating costs by 30 to 50¢ per barrel once it’s complete.

Tar sands/oil sands major Suncor Energy has already “de-manned [1]” its haulers, and Imperial Oil recently announced a similar pilot with up to seven trucks at its Kearl mine, The Canadian Press reports. CNRL operates 18 trucks at Jackpine, and a total of 140 across its three mines.

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CP says CNRL is also piloting a portable processing unit to separate bitumen from sand in the actual mining pit, rather than hauling it away to a central processing facility. That change could bring down mining costs by $2 to $3 per barrel, cut greenhouse gas emissions “significantly” by scaling back the need for trucking, and reduce the company’s need for tailings ponds.