The AER caves again: Modified Primrose steaming plan approved, Regulator approves limited resumption at Canadian Natural operations despite serious bitumen leaks to surface

Modified Primrose steaming plan approved, Regulator approves limited resumption at Canadian Natural operations by Dan Healing, April 17, 2014, Calgary Herald
The Alberta Energy Regulator has approved a modified plan under which Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. will be able to continue steaming wells at two phases of its Primrose project despite bitumen leaks to surface. In a news release Thursday afternoon, AER president and chief executive Jim Ellis took pains to specify that the Canadian major oilsands producer will not be able to steam wells near the four slow leaks at Primrose and Wolf Lake, which remain under investigation.

“In July, the AER completely restricted steaming operations in the four areas that have bitumen releasing to the surface. Those restrictions remain in place,” he stated.

“We also directed CNRL to modify steaming operations within the rest of its Primrose site, which included reduced volumes and increased monitoring. This application is a direct response to that request.”

The AER said no new wells are approved with its decision.

The decision allows CNRL to resume steaming in Phases 23 and 24 provided it stay one kilometre away from a release area, maintain lower injection volumes, monitor operations closely, review all existing well bores in the vicinity and provide a risk assessment and mitigation plan to address potential wellbore failures before steaming.

In March, Canadian Natural pulled an application to resume steaming in a restricted area at the project after the AER said its application would be denied because the investigation wasn’t finished. CNRL said then it had finished cleaning up three of the four spill sites.

[Refer also to:

AER denies one of two CNRL applications to resume high-pressure steam injection near Cold Lake; AER keeps approving Encana’s high pressure frac fluid injection around dangerously contaminated water wells and Rosebud municipal drinking water supply

Alberta government lays 11 charges against CNRL tarsands company for releasing hydrogen sulphide gas from Horizon upgrader

Alberta Regulator Quietly Halts High Pressure Steam Injection for Bitumen Mining Near Fort Mac, After several leaks, production frozen while technical review is conducted

Satellite data sound alarm on safety of high pressure injection; data shows significant ground deformation (subsidence and uplift) in area of CNRL leak, 10 times faster than lower-pressure injection

Alberta regulator investigates another CNRL well leak in troubled leaking Primrose field; Cenovus spills 1300 gallons of drilling fluids at Cold Lake

Where’s the regulator? CNRL releases into formation another 7000 gallons of Crude Bitumen at Primrose, Cold lake, does not yet know how to repair the problem, or past releases

Alberta Environment: Cold Lake frac’d bitumen leak has contaminated groundwater; Nikiforuk: Caprock Integrity, Risks of steam-assisted bitumen recovery too little discussed

“You can fix a wellbore, but you can’t repair a fractured cap rock,”

Leak at Tar Sands Project in Alberta Heightens Conservationists’ concerns; CNRL Cold Lake Bitumen Geyser Continues, Despite Company Claims

‘Nobody understands’ leaks at Alberta tar sands high pressure injection operation, Leaks in Cold Lake have been going on for weeks with no end in sight, according to a government scientist ]

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