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Image courtesy of ExxonMobil.

Exxon Mobil Corporation started production ahead of schedule Wednesday at its Kearl oil sands expansion project in Alberta, Canada.

The expansion project is ultimately expected to reach 110,000 barrels per day and is projected to double overall capacity to 220,000 barrels of bitumen a day.

Kearl will access about 4.6 billion barrels of resource for more than 40 years.

“The ahead-of-schedule startup of the Kearl expansion demonstrates ExxonMobil’s project management expertise and highlights our ability to safely and successfully execute complex projects,” president of ExxonMobil Development Company Neil Duffin.

The expansion project consists of three additional trains that use proprietary paraffinic froth treatment technology to produce bitumen.

The process reduces energy requirements and environmental impacts by not requiring an on-site upgrader that allowed the company to avoid  “a multi-billion dollar capital investment and associated operating expense,” Exxon said.

Energy needs are further reduced through the installation of energy-saving cogeneration facilities.

The project produces blended bitumen with about the same lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions as the average crude oil refined in the United States.

Other environmental innovations include on-site water storage to reduce water use, progressive land and tailings reclamation and a state-of-the-art waterfowl deterrent system.

“Kearl’s bitumen was first processed in ExxonMobil refineries to help the company fully understand its properties before introducing it to the market. It is now processed in more than 25 refineries around the world,” Duffin said.

ExxonMobil said it expects to increase its global production volumes this year by 2 percent to 4.1 million oil equivalent barrels per day, driven by 7 percent liquids growth.

The volume increase is supported by the ramp up of several projects completed in 2014 and the expected startup of seven major developments in 2015, including the Kearl expansion, Hadrian South in the Gulf of Mexico, Banyu Urip in Indonesia and deepwater expansion projects at Erha in Nigeria and Kizomba in Angola.

The Kearl project is located about 46 miles northeast of Fort McMurray, Alberta, and is operated by Imperial Oil Limited, an ExxonMobil affiliate.