The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) released its report regarding the four flow-to-surface events, which started in May 2013 at CNRL’s Primrose South and East locations, which resulted in the release of 1057 m3 of bitumen emulsion. The regulator says the reports was “one of the most complex undertakings” they have ever completed. Public Affairs Officer for Canadian Natural, Julie Woo, says the regulators findings were consistent to Canadian Natural’s own reports.
“The Alberta Energy Regulator‘s (AER) final investigation report with its conclusions on the Primrose flow to surface events, was released on March 21, 2016. The AER’s report appears consistent with Canadian Natural’s interim Causation Report submitted to the AER on June 27, 2014 as well as Canadian Natural’s Final Report submitted on April 1, 2015. Both the interim Causation Report and the Final Report, which contains over 4,000 pages of technical data and interpretation, were reviewed by an independent technical panel. The panel submitted its Independent Expert Panel report to the AER on May 19, 2015. The enabling conditions that led to the seepage to surface events are unchanged.”
Woo explains Canadian Natural goes to great lengths to ensure flow-to-surface events do not occur and if/when they do the impact is minimal. “As a result of extensive data gathering, investigation, analytical analysis and interpretation, Canadian Natural and the industry’s understanding of cyclic steam processes has been enhanced. These learnings have been applied, and our operational practices and strategies have been modified to mitigate the risk of future seepages. Our enhanced operational practices and strategies – in place since July 2013 – includes modified steaming strategies, enhanced pressure monitoring and response strategies as well as remediation of wellbores to mitigate the risk of future seepages.”
Background AER Public Report
Following a thorough investigation, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) is implementing additional requirements at Canadian Natural Resource Limited’s (CNRL’s) Primrose operations on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range.
“This is one of the most complex investigations the AER has undertaken, and although we would normally just release the results on our compliance dashboard, we felt it important that Albertans were fully informed about the work that went into this unique investigation as well as its outcome,” says Jim Ellis, AER President and CEO.
The new requirements are as a result of four flow-to-surface events, which started in May 2013 at CNRL’s Primrose South and East locations, which resulted in the release of 1057 m3 of bitumen emulsion. CNRL also reported a flow-to-surface event in 2009.
In its investigation report, the AER concludes that the flow-to-surface events were caused by excessive steam volumes, along with open conduits such as well bores, natural fractures and faults, and hydraulically induced fractures.
The investigation report considered the information and findings provided by CNRL in its final report, as well as the results of an independent technical review panel. The report also describes all possible contributing factors, including the unique geology of the area, which may have contributed to the flow-to-surface events.
CNRL did not contravene any rules in their use of their specific steaming strategy, however the AER has since imposed regulatory requirements designed to prevent a further incident and permanently reduce steaming volumes. Should the company fail to meet these requirements, they could face enforcement action.
The Alberta Energy Regulator ensures the safe, efficient, orderly, and environmentally responsible development of hydrocarbon resources over their entire life cycle. This includes allocating and conserving water resources, managing public lands, and protecting the environment while providing economic benefits for all Albertans.