August 30, 2013

Bitumen Emulsion Seepage

Federal investigation launched at CNRL oilsands site

EDMONTON, ALTA: August 8, 2013 -- Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) workers cleaning up the bitumen emulsion on this marsh after it seeped up through a fissure under the water at their Primrose oil sand projects north of Cold Lake, August 8, 2013. A total of four sites have this seepage occuring and to date 7300 barrels have been collected from 13.5 hectares. (ED KAISER-EDMONTON JOURNAL)

OTTAWA-Environment Canada has launched an investigation into an ongoing industrial spill that has lasted for weeks in Alberta at an oilsands facility about 300 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.
First reported to provincial regulators on June 24, Canadian Natural Resources Limited says seepage of bitumen emulsion at four different sites of the facility, near Cold Lake, continue but are contained and being recovered.

“Environment Canada’s Enforcement Branch is currently assessing the situation with respect to federal environmental and wildlife laws within its jurisdiction, and has opened an investigation,” said Environment Canada spokesman Mark Johnson in a statement sent to Postmedia News on Wednesday evening.
The Alberta government’s energy regulator and its environment department are also conducting separate investigations into the incident, monitoring for potential impacts to soil, water, as well as dozens of wildlife deaths.

“We are working with Environment Canada in several areas, including wildlife,” said Alberta Environment spokeswoman Nikki Booth.

A spokeswoman for CNRL told Postmedia News that Environment Canada officials were on the site of the incident on July 4 and had followed up with additional requests for information.

“We have provided the requested information to EC  in regards to understanding the incident, the cause, and our plans going forward,” said spokeswoman Zoe Addington.
The facility uses a method employed in many oilsands operations that involves the injection of steam, deep underground to recover bitumen, the tar-like heavy oil found in natural deposits in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

CNRL said it believes the seepage was caused by “mechanical failures” in some wellbores that it is investigating, while working with government officials on clean-up efforts. The provincial energy regulator has reported those efforts are ongoing.

Bitumen recovery, impacted soil removal, fissure exposure, surface water management and containment efforts continue at the… sites,” said the Alberta Energy Regulator in its last online update on Aug. 20. “To date, the total wildlife impacts between all four sites have been reported with two beavers, 38 birds, 91 amphibians and 32 small mammals deceased.”

The company has reported recovering about 8,700 barrels of bitumen emulsion and has about 200 employees and contractors on site to “continue to reduce the impacts of these bitumen emulsion seepages until the locations are fully remediated.” Wildlife monitoring teams from the company are also “doing sweeps” each day, says CNRL on its website.

Environment Canada confirmed its own investigation two weeks after Postmedia News asked it a series of questions about the incident and the nature of warning letters sent to another company operating in the oilsands. Suncor had received 17 written warnings from the federal department over a three year period between 2009 and 2013, about alleged violations after more than 400 inspections.

Johnson said many of the warnings to oilsands companies were related to alleged violations that didn’t result in direct environmental harm, such as the failure to submit mandatory reports on time.
He added that the volume of inspections also demonstrated that the department takes environmental impacts of oilsands development “very seriously.”

The department also opened an enforcement office in Fort McMurray in April 2012 to help enforce federal environmental laws such as the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Migratory Birds Convention Act, he explained.

“The new office is part of the continued commitment by Environment Canada to work with other regulators to proactively and cooperatively monitor the environmental performance of oilsands operations,” Johnson said.

August 29, 2013

Warren Buffet investing in Bitumen

Warren Buffett’s massive stake in Suncor Energy Inc. could spark investor interest in the battered stocks of Canadian oil sands’ companies, according to analysts.

Mr. Buffett had acquired 17.7 million shares of Suncor by June 30, according to a U.S. regulatory filing by his company Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Since the last trading day of June, Suncor shares in New York have risen US$4.45, closing at US$33.94 on Thursday, netting the world’s third-richest man an estimated US$79-million on his oil sands’ investment on paper.

Analysts believe Mr. Buffett’s foray into the Alberta oil sands may prove to be a major fillip for the wider industry.

“This may be a turning point, possibly,” said Peter Tertzakian, chief energy economist at Arc Financial Corp. “Mr. Buffett is obviously recognized as a value investor, and the oil sands sector represents significant value.”
Oil sands operators have been ramping up production over the years, but lower Canadian crude price and concerns regarding market access have deflated investor sentiment.

“The market returns have been flat for two years, but in the meantime we have seen significant improvements — the whole area is attracting $20-billion a year in investment,” Mr, Tertzakian said.

Source - National Post

August 12, 2013

Bitumen Spill Continously

Months after Primrose spill began, CNRL doesn’t know when it will stop

Thousands of barrels of bitumen have been oozing to the surface of a remote operation for months and the oil giant responsible doesn’t know when it’s going to stop.

Canadian Natural Resources, Ltd., one of Canada’s biggest oil producers, said it has all four spills at its Primrose sites in northeast Alberta contained.

“We’ve learned from this and we know what steps to take to stop it from happening again,” said CNRL spokesperson Zoe Addington.
The Alberta Energy Regulator isn’t so sure.

Bitumen continues to come to the surface in all four locations,” spokesperson Cara Tobin said in an email. “The AER does not have any evidence that can confirm cause at this time. We will not allow steaming to resume until we are confident this will not happen again.”

But it’s tough to tell what’s making high-pressure hydrocarbons shoot off in unexpected directions when they’re buried under layers of rock.

More than 7,272 barrels of bitumen emulsion have escaped to the surface since the spills began in May at the isolated Cold Lake Air Weapons Range about 350 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.
About 20 barrels continue to seep out daily from four different locations, affecting about 13 and a half hectares.

According to the company, dozens of wildlife have been killed, including at least 16 birds, seven small mammals and 38 amphibians. A handful of animals are at a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Edmonton.
The company’s found elevated levels of hydrocarbons in the water, but said it shouldn’t impact anyone outside that immediate area.

It’s taking journalists on a tour of the high-pressure cyclical steam stimulation site Thursday – the first such availability since the spill began.

As the name suggests, high-pressure cyclical steam stimulation  involves steam shot through horizontal wells at extremely high pressure – hot enough to soften bitumen, high enough pressure to coax it to the surface, or (unlike more common steam operations) to fracture the rock itself.

The problem, though, is that once there’s a spill, it’s hard to stop before the pressure goes down.
“We just wait until it finishes,” Addington said, adding that she “wouldn’t have characterized it as taking a long time.”

The company is cleaning up the new bitumen as it leaks to the surface.

“Any emulsion to surface we’re taking very seriously,” Addington added, “and doing everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Global News analysis of 47 spills of crude oil or bitumen at CNRL’s Primrose and Wolf Lake sites since 2002 indicates the most commonly cited cause has been equipment failure.
In this case, the company says, the problem is that old, vertical wells, thought to be sealed up, came unsealed and allowed bitumen to escape.

The company knows which wellbores are problematic, she said, and knows how to fix them using concrete and steel so the problem doesn’t recur. The company thinks cleanup will cost about $40-million; investigation and repairs, $20-million.

“We’ve got an inventory of old legacy wellbores, we’ve flagged a few that we think are the likely culprits and we’re investigating and we know how to fix them,” she said.
“We believe it’s most likely a cementing failure, and we can repair that.”

But the Alberta Energy Regulator has not reached any conclusions. It’s still waiting on “technical, verified data,” Tobin said.
The regulator has questioned CNRL’s spill assessments before: After a 2009 spill at the same location, the provincial body expressed doubt over CNRL’s initial explanation.

“The ERCB is of the view that the Clearwater shale was likely breached by high-pressure steam injection not related to a wellbore issue,” the regulator (then known as the Energy Resources Conservation Board) said in an investigation published earlier this year.

“The ERCB is also of the view that geological weaknesses in combination with stresses induced by high-pressure steam injection may have contributed to the release.”

That hypothesis – that super-high pressure steam injections plus weaknesses in the rock contributed to a spill – makes sense to Chris Severson-Baker, managing director of the Pembina Institute. What doesn’t make sense, he said, is why the same procedure’s being done at the same site four years later.
Geological weakness, Severson-Baker argues, would mean “there’s a fundamental problem, perhaps, with the design of the project.”

And he says failure to figure out what went wrong and what to do about it could have repercussions for anyone in the industry using steam to extract oil.

“Just how much knowledge does industry and government have about what happens to these when they inject these very high pressures underground?” he said. “How much information do they have about where these fluids might be going?

“When something like this happens in spite of industry and government’s efforts to understand what happens … it calls into question these practices everywhere, really.”

August 5, 2013

Cold Bitumen for Pot-Hole Filling

The city-based NGO,  ‘Better Kochi Response Group’ (BKRG), which has mooted the idea of using cold mix or cold bitumen for filling the potholes in the city, conducted a demonstration in this regard on Saturday.
BKRG, which is an NGO authorised by the state government to co-ordinate the PWD infrastructure activities in the city, carried out the  demonstration on a pothole in front of KMA building.

According to BKRG, filling potholes with cold mix or cold bitumen can be done even on rainy days and does not need much labour, equipment or heating.

“In this method, an average-sized pothole can be filled single-handedly and takes only 10 to 15 minutes.
“Since no heating or melting is involved, there is no air pollution and it is very safe for workers. It does not disturb traffic around the section where the work is being carried out and there is no sound pollution either”, according to a statement issued by BKRG here.

The demonstration was carried out by Muralidharan Kurup who represents Shell Company and the product used was Shelmac PR. Initially, the potholes were cleaned and stagnant water was removed.
The product, which comes in ready mix condition in packets, was spread on the pot hole and levelled and rammed by a single labourer. “The whole filling process took less than 20 minutes and the road, which was in a wet condition, was ready to use instantly”, the BKRG statement added.

Kochi mayor Tony Chammany, Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA) chairman N  Venugopal, deputy mayor B Bhadra, GCDA town planner Gopalakrishnan, Kochi corporation town planning standing committee chairman K J Sohan and officials from PWD and other agencies were also present on the occasion.

“Later, the GCDA chairman’s car was driven over the repaired area twice and the patch work remained intact without any damage”, said the officebearers of BKRG.

Source - Indian Express