Nexen Inc., Calgary, (NYSE, TSX: NXY) and OPTI Canada Inc., Calgary, (TSX: OPC) say they have begun first production of synthetic crude oil from an upgrader at the Long Lake integrated oil sands project in Canada.

The companies say they will increase production of premium sweet crude to approximately 60,000 barrels per day over the next 12 to 18 months, adding that there may be periods of downtime.

Nexen president and chief executive officer Marvin Romanov says, "The production of first synthetic crude oil at Long Lake is a significant milestone and proves that the technology works," said Marvin Romanow, Nexen's President and Chief Executive Officer. "I would like to thank the thousands of people - our employees, our partner OPTI Canada Inc., our contractors, suppliers and government agencies - that have all contributed to this remarkable achievement. This is a world-class facility that we expect will produce premium synthetic crude at a significant cost advantage for the next 40 years."