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Last modified:
June 12, 2013

Oil Sands Caprock Integrity Project

Project Goal

OSCRIP Study Area
OSCRIP study area (click to enlarge)

We will evaluate the relationship between in situ heavy oil production operations and the overlying material to assess the potential risk for human-induced geological hazards. The goal is to provide a strong, scientific framework for effective regulation of in situ production of bitumen (heavy oil).

The project team will specifically examine the caprock integrity of units above bitumen resources in northeastern Alberta and assess their capacity to contain steam, bitumen and formation water when subjected to high temperature and/or high pressure operating conditions.

Project Phases

Phase I - Athabasca Oil Sands Pilot Area Caprock Characterization
Phase I will be a detailed geological and geomechanical characterization of the materials overlying the bitumen resources at a pilot area north of Fort McMurray. Assessment of caprock integrity involves understanding the stratigraphy, facies and rock properties, as well as structural features, such as faults or other planes of weakness.

Phase II – Oil Sands Area Shallow Stress Regime Analysis
The stress regime of units above heavy oil reservoirs plays an important role in the containment of steam, bitumen and formation waters. The objective of this phase is to review all stress data available in the oil sands areas and to characterize the shallow-stress regime and assess its affect on reservoir containment.

Clearwater Formation outcrop, northeast of Fort McMurray
Clearwater Formation outcrop, northeast of Fort McMurray

Phase III - In Situ Oil Production Incident Review Database
Uncontrolled releases of steam, oil or formation water caused by in situ oil production (e.g., cyclic-steam stimulation and steam-assisted gravity drainage) create concerns for resource and environmental conservation. A better understanding of the affect the geological setting has on the containment of the operations is needed. Therefore, we will analyze the incidences to determine common trends, potential causes and data gaps that should be resolved. We will also create an incident database that includes an overview of all failures or releases at in situ operations.

This is a multi-year project beginning in spring 2009. We will distribute the results via reports and presentations available on our website.

Project Lead: Kristine Haug