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The Lakeside Leader: Chipewyan Lake area oil sands project moving to next stage

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader
Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada

What’s known in coffee shops as ‘the Shell project’ is still a long way from fruition, but things are happening. Sure Northern Energy – which Royal Dutch Shell owns – is planning a series of community open houses in affected communities early next month to talk about what they’ve been up to. And what they’ll likely be doing in the year to come.

“Hopefully we’ll talk about some sort of field test,” says company spokesman Andrew Ritchie. A field test would be a step up from what Sure Northern has been doing so far, which is a winter drilling program to “test the resource.”

The resource is an estimated 30 billion barrels of unconventional crude oil, meaning (perhaps among other things) that it doesn’t come to the surface without assistance. It’s similar stuff to what’s being mined around Ft. McMurray, but it is too deep for mining, Ritchie says. Unnamed “new technologies” are the key factor, and testing those new technologies would be the purpose of the field test.

Shell is banking on good results. The company (through its subsidiary) spent $460 million on the mineral rights to 10 townships in February of last year. Since then it added several more for a sizeable investment in anybody’s books.

“It’ll be some sort of in situ process,” Ritchie says of the extraction technology. “Some sort of thermal recovery. Royal Dutch Shell has a number of technologies I think it can bring to bear.” But in the meantime, the goal remains to “understand the resource better.”

Road access to the area consists of a single link belonging to Al-Pac, the Grassland pulp mill company, running north from Wabasca.

The open houses run Apr. 2 – 4 in Chip Lake, Wabasca and Peerless Lake. The one in Chip Lake is Apr. 2 at the community hall from 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. On Apr. 3 the scene shifts to the Wabasca community hall from 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Peerless Lake community hall is the site of the third open house, on Apr. 4 from 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.


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