Osum’s Taiga Oilsands Project Takes a Step Forward

Alberta Environment has issued Osum Oil Sands Corp. the final terms of reference for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report on the company’s proposed 35,000 bbls-per-day Taiga oilsands project near Cold Lake.

Pending regulatory approval, it is Osum’s intention to begin construction in the third quarter of 2011 with subsequent start-up expected in the second quarter of 2013 and first bitumen production in early 2014.

Osum is proposing to develop the project about 20 kilometres north of Cold Lake in townships 65, Ranges 1 and 2, and Township 66, Ranges 1 and 2, west of the fourth meridian, using steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) technology for the majority of its development and cyclical steam stimulation (CSS) technology later in the project’s anticipated 30-year life.

Bitumen will be recovered from the Lower Grand Rapids and Clearwater formations within the project area, at depths between 360 and 460 metres. Osum’s engineers are in the process of designing optimal recovery processes that match the reservoir conditions on its leases.

The main components of the project include a common central plant with steam-generation facilities, as well as steam delivery and product recovery pipelines and well pads with horizontal wells for both SAGD and CSS. Water treatment and recycling, bitumen treatment and deep disposal wells for disposal of concentrated brackish water will also be included in the development.

Osum is also evaluating the possibility of steam and electricity cogeneration in the project, to increase overall energy efficiency.

Roads and other infrastructure will also be required, with exact details to be confirmed once more specific information about the geology and the reservoir becomes known. According to Osum, infrastructure will be planned using both scientific and traditional knowledge.

The company said the project will be designed to minimize surface disturbance — for example through the use of multi-well pads with horizontal wells and that well pads and the central plant will be interconnected with rights of way that will use existing disturbed corridors wherever practical.

According to Osum, the Taiga project will be among the first in Alberta to eliminate fresh water usage for steam generation. Instead, saline water from brackish sources will be drawn from deep wells in the McMurray formation. Steam facilities will have recycling capabilities up to 95% while a small amount of fresh water may be required for basic amenities on the project site.

The Taiga project’s evaporator technology for plant facilities and water treatment will eliminate lime sludge ponds and permit safe disposal of concentrated brackish water far below the surface of the earth.

Osum said it is working to ensure the associated infrastructure does not harm surface and wetland flows. Four hydrometric stations have been installed on the Medley River to determine baseline flows. The design will address culvert placement and sizing, in addition to ongoing long-term monitoring. The project will not be extracting resources from under any of the lakes in the region, said the company.

Osum anticipates opening a field office in 2010, with required staff to eventually include plant and field operators, maintenance, electrical and instrumentation personnel, production engineers, computer support, site administrative staff, drilling and completion staff and others. Services and supplies are to be obtained locally where possible.

The company is consulting the public by way of town hall meetings, the Internet, one-on-one meetings and engagement in community groups.

Osum will assess cumulative environmental effects in accordance with the ERCB, AENV and Natural Resources Conservation Board. The company will include a summary of all proposed monitoring, research and other strategies or plans to minimize, mitigate and manage any potential adverse effects.

The final terms of reference is the regulators’ list of information it requires for Taiga’s EIA, which is to be followed by a formal application with Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board.

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