News Release 2010-02-23


News Release 2010-02-23

News Release 2010-02-23 (NR2010-01)

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ERCB releases operator and ERCB reports on Joslyn Creek Project surface steam release incident

For immediate release

Calgary, Alberta (Feb 23, 2010)… Following the completion of an extensive investigation, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) has released Bulletin 2010-10, which includes an incident report on the steam release incident that occurred on May 18, 2006, at Total E&P Canada Ltd.’s (Total) Joslyn Creek steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) in situ oil sands project, located 60 km north of Fort McMurray. Total’s report to the ERCB on the matter is also being released.

The incident occurred due to a breach in the thermal project’s caprock, the layer of rock which overlies the bitumen deposit and prevents steam and heated bitumen from migrating. The steam release lasted only a few minutes, but resulted in a significant surface disturbance. There were no injuries, no public impacts, and no harmful gases emitted as a result of the incident.

The ERCB investigation determined that the breach was the result of the company operating at steam pressures that exceeded ERCB approval conditions. The Joslyn Creek steam release incident is the only time that a SAGD operation in Alberta has had a caprock breach that resulted in a steam release to surface.

The SAGD well pair involved in the incident and three adjacent well pairs have been shut in since the steam release. Total was also required to operate at reduced pressures and implement extensive monitoring as a condition to re-starting normal operations at other project wells. In addition, approval of a proposed project expansion was deferred by the ERCB pending the outcome of the incident investigation. Total suspended project operations in June 2009 and has recently applied for abandonment of the project.

Due to the complexity of the matter and the rigorous scientific review of the incident, this investigation is one of the most comprehensive in ERCB history. The ERCB worked with Total to ensure all relevant information was incorporated into Total’s 1,140-page technical report. ERCB geological and engineering experts then completed their own analyses on the causes of the steam release.

The ERCB began to implement changes in March 2007 to its application processes and requirements based upon preliminary findings from the incident as it conducted the investigation. Thermal project applications are required to provide more detailed geological information to further demonstrate the competency of the caprock, and operations are now required to outline the monitoring they will conduct to ensure caprock integrity is not compromised.

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For more information, please contact:

Bob Curran, ERCB Communications
Phone: 403-297-3392
Media line: 1-855-474-6356