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Cenovus advances Alberta oil sands project

Cenovus Energy Inc. has submitted applications for a thermal development project in the Athabasca oil sands of Alberta that will require dewatering of an aquifer overlying some of the bitumen.

If approved, the Telephone Lake project, formerly Borealis, will progress in two phases with production capacity of 45,000 b/d each. The project is about 70 km east of Fort McKay and 90 km northeast of Fort McMurray, Alta.

Cenovus has submitted applications to the provincial Energy Resources Conservation Board and Alberta Environment and Water to develop the bitumen in the Cretaceous Middle McMurray formation with steam-assisted gravity drainage.

Over an expected 40-year project life, the operator proposes to drill an estimated 961 SAGD well pairs and 378 dewatering wells from a total of 104 well pads.

The project would include a central processing facility with oil treatment; steam production with as many as 10 generators, including two cogeneration units; and water treatment.

Dewatering will be of what Cenovus calls a top water layer directly over the bitumen at depths of 150-175 m in the McMurray formation. The water is nonsaline but contains traces of oil and is therefore unsuitable for consumption or agriculture.

Air injection will help displace water, which will be produced and reinjected elsewhere in the top water zone or in deeper zones. A small amount of the water will support steam generation.

Subject to approvals, construction would begin in 2014 and commercial-scale dewatering in 2016.


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