ERCB reports on 2006 Joslyn Creek SAGD steam release

Guntis Moritis
OGJ Production Editor

HOUSTON, Feb. 24 -- The Energy Resources Conservation Board of Alberta (ERCB) released an incident report on the May 18, 2006, steam release at Total E&P Canada Ltd.’s Joslyn Creek steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) oil sands project as well as Total's report on the incident to ERCB.

ERCB's report notes that the Joslyn Creek project, 60 km north of Fort McMurray, was the shallowest SAGD development in Alberta, with horizontal steam injection wells at less than a 100-m depth.

The report said the steam release breached the caprock and affected a 125 m by 75 m surface area. The release caused rock projectiles to travel up to 300 m from the main crater and produced a 1-km dust plume. The report notes that there was no loss of life or injury and the incident did not emit any harmful gas.

After the incident, ERCB imposed pressure restrictions on steam injection for the project and in June 12, 2009, approved the suspension of the project. Recently Total has submitted an application for abandoning the project.

ERCB concluded that Total was noncompliant with its approved development scheme by operating at bottomhole pressures higher than the 1,400 kPa (absolute) proposed in its application and by failing to shut-in wells that exceeded a 1,800 kPa (absolute) bottomhole pressure.

The Joslyn Creek incident is the only time that a SAGD operation in Alberta has had a caprock breach that released steam to surface, ERCB said.

ERCB also said it began to implement changes in March 2007 in its application processes. The changes require thermal project applications to provide more detailed geological information for determining the caprock competency as wells as provide an outline for monitoring caprock integrity during steam injection.

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