Athabasca climbed 10 percent to C$8.12 at the close in Toronto. Earlier the shares surged as much as 22 percent, the biggest gain intraday since they began trading in April 2010. The stock fell 29 percent this year through yesterday.
Athabasca can now proceed with the sale of its stake in the project, worth about C$1.3 billion ($1.25 billion), to PetroChina, giving it funds for other projects. The transaction would be the first Canadian oil-sands asset to be sold to a Chinese company since Cnooc Ltd. (883) completed the takeover of Nexen Inc. earlier this year.
“We view the decision as highly positive,” Jared Dziuba, a Calgary-based analyst with BMO Capital Markets, said in a note to clients today. “With funding in hand likely by the fourth quarter of 2013, we expect Athabasca to materially advance oil-sands and light-oil development programs, setting the stage for several meaningful catalysts.”
Aboriginal groups had objected to the project. The Alberta Energy Regulator applied 10 conditions to the project in its approval, including “progressive reclamation” of land disturbed by the production process.
The regulator said in its 40-page decision posted yesterday that Dover won’t have a direct impact on the Moose Lake area, a traditional territory of the Fort McKay First Nation, which sought a 20-kilometer (12-mile) buffer zone free of development around two lakes the community uses for cultural activities. The site is about 100 kilometers northwest of Fort McMurray.
The Moose Lake area is “still peaceful and clean,” said Gerald Gladue, a member of the Fort McKay First Nation, in remarks to the panel reviewing the project and published in the decision yesterday. “Moose Lake and Buffalo Lake are basically the last place we have to go. They have chopped off our arms and our legs.”
The provincial government must review the project and make a final decision, the regulator said. The Dover project is expected to create C$5.3 billion annually in economic activity, the company said yesterday after the regulator’s announcement.
The Dover project contains reserves of 4.1 billion barrels at a 50 percent recovery rate, the regulator said. Athabasca expects production at the site to reach 250,000 barrels a day at full capacity.
PetroChina is planning to invest at least $60 billion this decade in global oil and natural gas assets. Athabasca in January 2012 sold a 40 percent stake in the MacKay River oil-sands project to a PetroChina division for C$680 million.