The Alberta Energy Regulator continues its investigation into the flow-to-surface (FTS) events at the Canadian Natural Resource Primrose East and South Locations on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range. CNRL has reported four FTS releases since May 2013.
Updates – AER approves CNRL Application to conduct low pressure steaming at Primrose East Area 1
The AER has conducted a comprehensive technical review of an application from CNRL to convert operations at Primrose East Area 1, from high-pressure cyclic steam stimulation (HPCSS) to low pressure steamflood operations.
This method of production involves steam injection at much lower pressures, less than half, than the previous HPCSS method.
The AER applied a rigorous evaluation process and is satisfied that the modified approach will successfully mitigate potential risks of further bitumen release, either in the form of increased volume at the existing flow to surface sites, or new flow to surface incidents.
In the summer of 2013, the AER directed CNRL to enhance monitoring at the Primrose sites. That monitoring remains in place and will assess any impacts to low pressure steaming.
CNRL continues to comply with the terms of the Environmental Protection Order and Enforcement Order in place.
As a result, the AER has granted approval for this lower-pressure steaming approach at Primrose East.
If flow rates at the existing sites increase, or if new sites occur, the AER will immediately take action that may include ordering the company to stop steaming.
The AER is not prepared to allow full high-pressure steaming operations at these FTS sites until the investigation is complete, all potential risks are addressed and a proper assessment of the modified low-pressure approach has been conducted.
The AER investigation is ongoing and a final report will be made public.
Update - July 2014
The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has released the results of an independent technical review into the causes of the 2013 bitumen flow-to-surface incidents at the east and south sections of Canadian Natural Resource Limited’s Primrose project. The AER concurs that the main contributing factors were the steaming strategy used by Canadian Natural Resources Limited and wellbore issues.
On June 27, 2014, CNRL provided the AER with a causation report which identified four conditions which enable or significantly increase the probability of an flow-to-surface (FTS) event.