Improving oil recovery reduces environmental footprint

Corporate Responsibility

Improving oil recovery reduces 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 not only increase recovery, but also improves our waste management practices.

Advancing 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. Our Pelican Lake field hosts one of the largest polymer flood operations in North America. In 2017, we successfully integrated our portfolio of Pelican Lake assets through an acquisition, consolidating Canadian Natural’s operatorship to 100% of the lands in the pool and allowing for greater efficiency in servicing and operation area management.

Since our first polymer flooding pilot project in 2005, we have continued to build up an understanding of the elements that are key to an efficient and successful flood. From optimizing water and polymer quality to ensuring a balanced flood, this operation has continually shown progress.

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 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 recycling 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 polymer flood operations

More efficient separation process 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.