Alberta Energy Regulator



Alberta Energy Regulator

July 18, 2013 13:00 ET

Alberta Energy Regulator Orders Enhanced Monitoring and Further Steaming Restrictions at Primrose and Wolf Lake Projects Due to Bitumen Emulsion Releases

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwired - July 18, 2013) - The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has ordered Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) to restrict steam injection, enhance monitoring, and continue to accelerate cleanup efforts at its Primrose and Wolf Lake high pressure cyclic steam stimulation (HPCSS) project following incidents involving the release of bitumen emulsion to surface within the project area located in the Cold Lake region.

Earlier this year, as a result of three releases of bitumen emulsion to surface, the AER ordered the suspension of steaming operations within the Primrose East section of the project area. On June 24, 2013, the company reported a fourth release, this time into an unnamed water body on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, at Primrose South. In response to the issues in this area, the AER has ordered that CNRL take further measures, including suspending steaming operations within one kilometre of the Primrose South incident and restricting steam operations throughout Primrose North and South.

"The Alberta Energy Regulator is investigating all instances of bitumen release to surface in relation to this project," said CEO Jim Ellis. "Although there have been no risks to public safety, until we investigate these incidents, better understand the cause of these releases, and what steps CNRL will to take to prevent them, we are taking these measures as a precaution."

HPCSS has been used in oil recovery in Alberta for more than 30 years. The method involves injecting high-pressure steam into a reservoir over a prolonged period of time. As heat softens the bitumen and water dilutes and separates the bitumen from the sand, the pressure creates cracks and openings through which the bitumen can flow back into the steam-injector wells.

HPCSS differs from steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) operations where steam is injected at lower pressures without fracturing the reservoir and uses gravity drainage as the primary recovery mechanism.

The AER is investigating these incidents and will issue a public report once the investigation is complete. Regular incident updates are available at www.aer.ca.

The AER ensures the safe, efficient, orderly, and environmentally responsible development of hydrocarbon resources over their entire life cycle. This will include allocating and conserving water resources, managing public lands, and protecting the environment while providing economic benefits for all Albertans.

FOR BROADCAST USE:

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has ordered steaming restrictions at Canadian Natural Resources Limited's (CNRL) Primrose and Wolf Lake in situ oil sands project near Cold Lake, Alberta, following incidents involving the release of bitumen emulsion to surface. The AER has also ordered enhanced monitoring and will be conducting a full investigation.

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