Through one of the largest investments in provincial history, expansions to the Hangingstone project in Alberta will trigger big gains in output, its premier believes.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley was on hand in September for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the start of a US$1.6 billion expansion project led by Japan Canada Oil Sands Ltd (JACOS). At its Hangingstone project in Fort McMurray, the expansion is using steam to help improve oil production from the current rate of 1,000 barrels per day to 20,000 bpd by the middle of next year.

"Good jobs for Albertans, billions of dollars in new investment and a growing economy -- that's what this expansion project means," Notley said in a statement.

Notley added that "it's never been more important for us to get new pipelines built," which would help Canada tap deeper into the growing Asian economies. Nearly all of Canadian oil exports head to the United States and the country is working to break the land lock.

The project is one of the largest investments in Alberta in 40 years.

In the past year, international companies have sold off more than $30 billion of oilsands assets to Canadian-based firms, after more than $45 billion streamed in during a frantic 10-year period.

But the ebb-and-flow of foreign money didn’t dissuade the Japanese company from persisting with a resource it began researching almost 40 years ago.

“For us, it still makes sense to stick to the oilsands business. That’s because of the accumulation of the knowledge in this specific play,” JACOS president Satoshi Abe told the Calgary Herald.

“The oilsands development makes sense in the long run … you have to have a long-term view.”

The province estimates 400 direct and indirect jobs were created by construction of the project. The facility currently employs 190 people.

“This kind of project is exactly the kind of project that will be able to grow, grow prosperity for all Albertans as they’re able to get access to more diverse markets,” Notley said.

The steam-assisted gravity drainage project came from the largest investment made in Alberta by the company in its 40-year history in the province. It’s also the largest investment made globally by JACOS’ parent company, Tokyo-based Japan Petroleum Exploration Company.