Cap rock integrity in Alberta's Oil Sands has gained increasing industry prominence over the years. A competent cap rock seal is a key mandate to subsurface containment assurance in thermal operations such as Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD). Containment loss incidents in the past decade present substantial insights into regulating thermal development prospects as well as defining and benchmarking the industry practices in Alberta. Cap rock characterization and its response to high pressure and temperature in SAGD greatly influences the reservoir management strategy adopted by the operators. Constraints on the Maximum Operating Pressure (MOP) and safety factors are generally premised on tensile or shear cap rock failure probabilities.
This work integrates and analyzes key industry data from subsurface disciplines of geology, geophysics, geomechanics and reservoir engineering in characterizing regional Clearwater and Wabiskaw shale cap rocks in the Athabasca basin. A comprehensive analysis was conducted on sixteen (16) commercial oil sands projects and incident reports. Applications, reports and Supplemental Information Requests (SIRs) submitted to the Alberta Energy Regulator's (AER) published data and relevant literature was consulted to generate regional interpretations of the cap rock properties and industry approaches. A regional database of key properties including In-situ stresses, horizontal stress anisotropies, pore pressure gradients, and rock mechanical properties was compiled. In addition, regional failure modeling practices including numerical modeling assumptions, coupling, initial and boundary conditions and failure criteria are studied. Finally, common reservoir and cap rock monitoring techniques are explored.
Major conclusions from this study include regional interpretations of various risk factors affecting cap rock integrity in Oil Sands. Inferences from pooled industry data is used to generate a holistic interpretation of the Wabiskaw and Clearwater cap rocks. Intrinsic risk factors embedded in commonly practiced cap rock evaluation techniques, modeling and surveillance techniques in SAGD operations are identified alongside containment assurance programs commonly adopted by industry stakeholders. A summary of findings is provided at the end of this study for Operators to consider advancing their view on subsurface containment risk management.
Imperial Oil has made a final investment decision on its 75,000-B/D Aspen oil sands project, the first new oil sands development to be approved in 5 years. Researchers at the University of Calgary have developed a solid pellet that can transport bitumen and heavy oil by railcar instead of pipelines.
Cenovus Energy announced that it reached 1 billion bbl of cumulative production from its oil sands facilities in northern Alberta, becoming the first company to reach this milestone using SAGD technology. Kevin Birn is part of the IHS North American Crude Oil Markets’ team and leads the IHS Energy Oil Sands Dialogue.
Oil production from the Canadian oil sands is big, growing, and its future is in doubt. The problem is the cost and time required to develop new production is not competitive now. While some big international oil companies are selling out, others are focused on changing the economics of growth. The addition of a hydrocarbon condensate to steam operations in heavy-oil and bitumen reservoirs has emerged as a potential technology to improve not only oil recovery but also energy efficiency.
An improved occupational health and safety system comes into effect on 1 June to better protect Alberta workers and ensure they have the same rights as other Canadians. The Alberta Energy Regulator has issued two draft directives that will require upstream oil and gas operators to reduce methane emissions from upstream oil and gas sites by 45% from 2014 levels by 2025. On 16 June 2017, the Alberta Oil Sands Advisory Group released its report Recommendations on Implementation of the Oil Sands Emissions Limit Established by the Alberta Climate Leadership Plan.
It’s no secret that oil majors are among the biggest corporate emitters of pollution. What may be surprising is that they’re reducing their greenhouse-gas footprints every year, actively participating in a trend that’s swept up most corporate behemoths. The Canadian and Alberta governments and three energy companies said on 11 May that they will spend CAD 70 million (USD 51.14 million) to develop three new clean technology projects, aimed at cutting costs and carbon emissions in the country’s oil sands.
In the northeastern desert of Utah, a new type of oil sands extraction technology has been born. The company behind it claims the process is the most cost-effective and environmentally sound way to develop oil sands. SPE’s technical directors are focused on problems that require working outside the bounds of their discipline. A condensed version of what is on the minds of SPE’s technical directors is: The industry needs multidisciplinary, data-driven ways to adapt to what is ahead, focus on what is critical for decision making, and take a long view as another generation takes over.
If you can see it, then maybe you can control it. This sums up the latest quest that the unconventional engineering community embarked upon to get a better understanding of proper well spacing and how fractures really interact. Devon Energy will be getting simpler and smaller by selling two no-growth assets—gas acreage in the Barnett Shale in Texas and oil sand operations in Canada. Its future is staked on growing oil production in the Permian’s Delaware Basin and three other unconventional oil plays. The struggle to overcome the challenge of frac hits has led to a critical dialogue about which pathway the shale sector should take.
Devon Energy and its debt gets smaller, as Canadian Natural Resources adds to its huge, long-term bet on Canadian heavy and ultra-heavy crude. Imperial Oil has made a final investment decision on its 75,000-B/D Aspen oil sands project, the first new oil sands development to be approved in 5 years. Things are so tough in the Canadian oil sands that competitors are considering whether to start sharing some of what they know about producing more and doing it for less. Collaboration should speed progress for everyone, but companies with something to give are looking for something in return. Oil production from the Canadian oil sands is big, growing, and its future is in doubt.