The company is planning to develop the project, which is situated about 90km northeast of Fort McMurray, in stages with a 90,000 barrels per day (bbls/d) in the initial phase and followed by expansions.

With a project life of over 40 years, the Telephone Lake is likely to have a total production capacity of more than 300,000 bbls/d and is expected to enhance project economics and reduce the impact on the environment for the company.

The company said it will not make a final decision until 2015 on whether to go ahead with construction.

Cenovus Energy president and chief executive officer Brian Ferguson said: "We’re pleased to have received regulatory approval for Telephone Lake as it has the potential to be another cornerstone asset within our portfolio.

"We’re excited about the opportunity that this high quality asset provides for us to create future value."

Cenovus Energy also operates the Christina Lake, with 138,000 bbls/d of current gross production capacity, as well as Foster Creek project, with approximately 150,000 bbls/d of current gross production capacity, that are half-owned by ConocoPhillips.