Improving oil recovery and reducing environmental footprint

Corporate Responsibility

Improving oil recovery and reducing environmental footprint

At Canadian Natural, improving oil production goes hand in hand with reducing our footprint on the land. Enhancing oil and water separation processes across our operations improves our waste management practices.

Improving polymer performance at Pelican Lake

Research and applied technology are the foundation of our Pelican Lake operations, where we have pioneered polymer flooding as an Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) technique to increase reservoir recovery by up to 25%. Our Pelican Lake field hosts one of the largest polymer flood operations in North America. Polymer flooding involves using a thickener that is dissolved in water to increase its viscosity. The polymer solution is injected into the reservoir to displace (sweep) the crude oil towards production wells to increase recovery. This project illustrates how Canadian Natural takes R&D from pilot to commercialization.

Since our first polymer flooding pilot project in 2005, ongoing field trials and research help us understand the impacts of water quality on injection wells to maximize injectivity into the reservoir. This allows us to continuously improve polymer flood performance and enhance operational efficiencies.

At Pelican Lake, heavy oil is brought to the surface as an emulsion of oil, water, sand, gas and other solubles. These components are stored in large vessels and they settle out in layers based on their densities. We have recently implemented an automated process that measures densities in a more consistent and accurate way. Better detection of separation levels leads to cleaner water (reducing water treatment required for recycle into the polymer system), less waste and more effective cost management.

Canadian Natural continues to advance a polymer flood pilot at the Lone Rock field in Lloydminster, utilizing the learnings from our Pelican Lake project. This pilot has been showing promising results so far, and we continue to improve and monitor the flood performance in order to convert more of the field to polymer flooding.

Pelican Lake polymerflood operations

Operating efficiencies in our heavy oil operations

At our heavy oil operations, we also need to separate the produced emulsion into clean oil and water streams prior to safe disposal and containment into caverns (deep formations beneath the surface). Research into oil and water separation resulted in a new process that is improving oil recovery from the water, reducing sand handling and improving disposal by extending the life of sand disposal caverns.