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Calgary, Alberta (Dec 17, 2010)… The ERCB has conditionally approved the final two tailings plans submitted under Directive 074: Tailings Performance Criteria and Requirements for Oil Sands Mining Schemes.
The CNRL Horizon and Shell Jackpine plans represent the seventh and eighth tailings plans submitted to the ERCB by five oil sands operators in total. To date, the ERCB has conditionally approved tailings management plans for the Suncor Millennium/Steepbank, Suncor Fort Hills, Syncrude Mildred Lake and Aurora, Imperial Kearl and Shell Muskeg River projects.
Collectively, the five oil sands operators have committed more than $4 billion in technology, infrastructure and upgrades to meet the regulatory requirements in Directive 074. Over the life of the projects, tailings reduction at those sites will exceed Directive 074 requirements.
The ERCB has approved the CNRL tailings plan with nine conditions (see attached backgrounder). The CNRL plan includes the testing, construction and implementation of two new tailings technologies, Mature Fine Tailings Thin Lift Dewatering and Non-Segregated Tailings. From the year 2015 onwards, the ERCB has required CNRL to exceed Directive 074 annual fluid fine tailings reduction requirements in order to achieve a cumulative overall fluid fine tailings reduction that is equal to or better than Directive 074 requirements by no later than year-end 2025.
The ERCB has approved the Shell Jackpine tailings plan with six conditions (see attached backgrounder). Shell plans to meet Directive 074 fines capture requirements initially using Thickened and Centrifuged Tailings, then using Non-Segregating Tailings. From 2015 onwards, the ERCB has directed Shell to exceed Directive 074 annual fine tailings reduction requirements in order to achieve a cumulative overall fine tailings reduction that is equal to or better than Directive 074 requirements by no later than year-end 2019.
CNRL Horizon and Shell Jackpine, located 70 km north of Fort McMurray, each utilize one fluid tailings pond, which are used as reservoirs for water to be pumped back into the plants and re-used in the bitumen extraction process. Fine particles that settle to the bottom of each pond and form MFT are removed, treated and placed in dedicated disposal areas. The ponds are scheduled to be used throughout the operation of each project. CNRL Horizon’s pond is scheduled to be returned to a trafficable surface in 2050 and the Shell Jackpine pond follows in 2057.
The tailings plan approvals end an important initial phase in the implementation of Directive 074. By September 30, 2011, operators must submit annual tailings plan updates to ensure that tailings ponds are being managed in accordance with their tailings plans and that upgrades are being made on schedule. On that date, operators must also file their first compliance plans for Dedicated Disposal Areas, which are areas dedicated solely to the deposition of captured fines which can be made trafficable and ready for reclamation more quickly.
The next two tailings ponds slated to be returned to a trafficable surface are Syncrude’s Mildred Lake East In Pit, and Suncor Millennium/Steepbank’s Pond 5, which are expected to be returned to a trafficable surface by 2016 and 2017 respectively.
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For more information, please contact:Davis Sheremata, ERCB Communications
The Operator will meet or exceed 50 per cent fines capture on an annual basis in Dedicated Disposal Areas (DDAs) and an additional 40 per cent fines capture on an annual basis to reflect the absence of conventional dykes and beaches at the Horizon site by December 31, 2015.
The Operator will meet fines capture requirements in Directive 074: Tailings Performance Criteria and Requirements for Oil Sands Mining Schemes (Directive 074) on a cumulative basis no later than December 31, 2025 or other date as approved by the Board.
The Operator must operate all DDAs as described in Directive 074 , including compliance with the strength requirements annually for the year 2015 and beyond, unless otherwise approved by the Board.
By September 30, 2011 the Operator must submit a plan to the Board for approval that evaluates alternatives and proposes measures to further accelerate fluid fine tailings treatment. The submission must include the following:
The Operator must design, construct and operate the Non-segregated Tailings (NST) Plant or other fines capture facility with equivalent fines capture capability by December 31, 2014, unless otherwise approved by the Board. The Operator must meet the following milestones.
The Operator must notify the ERCB of any delays to NST Plant or other fines capture facility milestones referenced in Clause 19 above in advance of any anticipated milestone delays that are expected to exceed two months in duration. The Operator must provide reasons for the anticipated delay(s) and outline the contingency plans to meet the timelines outlined in this approval.
As part of its annual Tailings Plan submissions to the Board under Directive 074, the Operator must submit annual updates for its NST Plant or other fines capture facility that include:
The Operator shall submit a tailings measurement plan for approval two years prior to tailings deposition in DDAs or such other date approved by the Board.
At least six months prior to commencement of construction of those facilities, the Operator will notify the ERCB in writing of any proposed pilot plants, field pilot tests and/or demonstration plants for all tailings technology development. The Operator will also provide written updates of any previously submitted test reports no later February 28 in each year or as otherwise specified by the Board.
CNRL Horizon and Shell Jackpine each utilize one fluid tailings pond, which are used mainly as reservoirs for water to be pumped back into the plants and re-used in the bitumen extraction process. Fine particles that settle to the bottom of each pond are dredged on a regular basis and placed in dedicated disposal areas for quicker drying. The ponds are scheduled to be used throughout the operation of each project. CNRL Horizon’s pond is scheduled to be returned to a trafficable surface in 2050 and the Shell Jackpine pond follows in 2057.
The Imperial Kearl project, slated to begin operating in 2012, involves one tailings pond, which will be decommissioned by 2038. The Shell Muskeg River project involves five fluid tailings ponds, which are scheduled to be decommissioned in 2015, 2018, 2019, 2038, and 2049.
Suncor Fort Hills plans to operate one tailings pond which will operate for approximately 22 years with a plan to dry tailings to a trafficable surface in compliance with Directive 074.
Suncor Millennium/Steepbank currently utilizes four tailings ponds which are scheduled to be decommissioned in 2017, 2029, 2032, and 2035.
Syncrude’s Mildred Lake site currently deposits tailings in five tailings areas which are scheduled to be returned to a trafficable surface in 2016, 2020 and 2023, with the Mildred Lake Settling Basin scheduled for return to a trafficable surface in 2060.
Syncrude’s Aurora North site currently operates a single tailings pond which is scheduled to be returned to a trafficable surface in 2037.