Alberta Energy Co. Ltd., Calgary, has launched field operations at a $230 million project that is the company's first commercial use of steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) technology to tap heavy oil.
The first phase of the Foster Creek thermal recovery project is expected to recover 140 million bbl of 9.5-10.5° gravity bitumen. The hydrocarbon has a viscosity of 300,000-500,000 centistokes at 12° C. in the reservoir at about 500 m true vertical depth. Application of steam hikes the temperature to 250° C. and reduces viscosity to around 3,500 centistokes.
Production is to begin in early 2002 at around 20,000 b/d. Later expansions could build total daily output to 100,000 b/d by 2007.
A pilot project in the same area has four existing well pairs producing a combined 2,800 b/d.
The commercial project area is 40 miles north of Cold Lake, Alta., on the Primrose Lake Air Weapons Range.
The company began drilling the surface hole for the project's first horizontal well pair on Aug. 17.
The formation being tapped is Cretaceous McMurray, the same as that mined in the Syncrude project. Primrose wells are 1,500 m total length with about 700 m of horizontal section in the reservoir and a 300 m build section.
The clearing required for the commercial project's first phase is about 88 acres. That includes a central plant site and four well pads that will support 24 well pairs, all to have been drilled by first quarter 2001.
Conventional, once-through generators will burn natural gas to produce steam for injection.
The recovery factor is expected to exceed 60%, AEC said, the same as that experienced at the first SAGD research pilot operated by the Alberta government.
AEC's midstream division is also proceeding with plans for a $45 million, 52-km pipeline system to deliver Foster Creek production to AEC Pipelines' Wolf Lake Pump Station south of the Primrose Range.
The project site is 120 miles northeast of Edmonton, Alta.
The parallel pipelines include a 10-in. diluent supply to the Foster Creek site and a 24-in. heavy oil blend pipeline from Foster Creek to Wolf Lake. This provides product access to AEC's Cold Lake Pipeline to Edmonton.
AEC anticipates that more than 80% of the project cost will involve Alberta-based contractors and suppliers.
AEC received regulatory approvals this summer from the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (AEUB) and Alberta Environment. AEUB issued its regulatory approvals on June 15 following a lengthy public consultation process with environmental groups and local communities.
Some individuals and groups expressed some concerns about environmental aspects such as groundwater and air quality, but the process also earned the company compliments regarding the project's extensive environmental impact assessment.
Recent growth has propelled AEC to become Canada's largest independent natural gas producer and fifth among independent producers in North America.