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3TuesdayOctober152013AlbertaregulatorinvestigateshealthcomplaintsaroundPeaceRiveroilsandsprojectsByMEAGANWOHLBERGAfteryearsofcomplaintsfromresidentsinthePeaceRiverareaofnorthwesternAlbertatheAlbertaEnergyRegulatorAERhasbegunlookingintotheodoursandemissionscomingfromlocalinsituoilsandsdevelopmentthatpeopleclaimismakingthemsick.Theregulatorannouncedinmid-Septemberthatitwouldlaunchaninvestigationintotheodoursandemissionspro-ducedbyheavyoiloperationsintheregionandprovideaforumforthepublictohavetheirconcernsformallyheard.ThatprocessbeganlastweekwithanorganizationalmeetingonOct.7inPeaceRiverwhereresidentsindustryrepsgov-ernmentagenciesandsubjectmatterexpertscametogethertoplantheconductofthepro-ceedings.Adecisionaboutthescopeandformatoftheinvesti-gationwillbeannouncedNov.4withoralhearingstakingplaceonDec.9.WrittensubmissionswerealsomadetotheAERmanyofwhichcamefromlandown-erswhovacatedtheareaduetoclaimsthatnearbyindustrywashavingnegativeeffectsontheirhealthandlivestock.AccordingtotheregulatortheproceedingswillconsiderconcernsofPeaceRiverarearesidentsalongwithexperttechnicalinformationonhowodoursandemissionsmayaf-fecthumanandanimalhealththesourcesofheavyoilodoursandemissionsandwillex-aminetheexistingregula-tionstoseeifimprovementsarerequired.TheAERhasmadecon-siderableprogressinidentify-ingthenatureandsourceofhydrocarbonemissionsema-natingfromheavyoilopera-tions.HowevereventhoughtheAERsaringventingandincineratingrequirementsareamongthemoststringentintheworldpublicconcernsregardinghydrocarbonemis-sionsandrelatedodoursper-sistAERpresidentandCEOJamesEllistoldchiefhearingcommissionerBradMcManusinaletterinJuly.OilsandsdevelopmentaroundPeaceRiverisprimar-ilydoneinsitueitherthroughcoldheavyoilproductionwithsandCHOPSwhichpumpsbitumenalongwithwaterandsandtothesurfacefrom600mdeepdepositstoberefinedelsewhereorbypumpinghighpressurizedsteamundergroundtodecreasetheviscosityofthepuck-likebitumenandhaveitpumpedasliquidtothesurface.AERspokespersonBobCurransaidsignicantworktomitigateodoursandemis-sionshasalreadybeendonewithlandownersindustryandgovernmentagenciesinthePeaceRiverarea.TheAERsworkwithin-dustryhasresultedin94percentofgasproducedatCHOPfacilitiesbeingcapturedinthePeaceRiverarea.AdditionallytheAERhasworkedwithland-ownersandindustrytoimple-mentaresponseprotocol.Theprotocolhastriggeredmorethan700AERinspectionsand2100AERinvestigationssince2010hesaidinanemail.ThoughEllisletterseemedtofocusspecicallyonCHOPSCurransaidthescopeofthepro-ceedingisyettobedetermined.ResidentscomplainofsicknessYearsofcomplaintsofnau-seaheadachesskinrashesmemorylossjointpainex-haustionanddifcultybreath-inghavebeenenoughtoforcesevenfamiliesintheareatomove.Somehavecomplainedaboutsicklivestockandmoreaboutdevaluedpropertyasoil-sandsdevelopmentincreasinglyencroachesupontheirfarmland.Ihavehorsesintheareathathavebeendisplayingrespira-torydistressforprolongedpe-riodsoftime.Thehorseshavebeenshowingthefollowingsymptomsdrycoughcon-junctivitisbreathingdifcul-tiesrunnynosesandnoticeablehivesonsomereadsaletterbyBeverlyOsbornesubmittedtotheAERonOct.4.TheraBreauwhovacatedtheareawrotethatshesawadversehealtheffectsinherchildrenwhichshebelieveswerelinkedtobitumenpro-ductionincludingnosebleedsskinrashesinsomnialanguagedifcultiesandeyetwitching.FormerresidentsMichelandLeonaLabrecquewrotethattheyalsolefttheirhomesbecauseofserioushealthconcernstheyclaimedwereindustry-relatedandcalledforbetterregulationsanden-forcementalongwithcumu-lativeimpactsmonitoring.WilsonLawintheirsubmis-siononbehalfoftheLabrecquefamilystatedthatsomanyres-identsleavingtheirhomesisunprecedentedinthehistoryofrelationsbetweenAlbertasoilindustryandlandowners.WithCHOPSultraheavyoilisstoredinhundredsofheatedstoragetanksaroundtheregion.ShellCanadasbi-tumenhandbooknotesfumesfromstoragetankscanre-sultinirritationtotheeyesnoseandrespiratorytractandheadachesandnausea.Thoughinsituproductionparticularlywhensteamas-sistedisoftentotedbyin-dustryashavinglessofanenvironmentalfootprintthanunsightlyopenpitminesstud-iesindicateagreateramountofemissionsareproducedbyinsituminingsomeofwhichcanbetoxic.Oilcompaniesroutinelyreport16differenttoxicandsmog-causingairemissionsfromtheirinsituoilsandsaccordingtoEnvironmentCanada.Theseemissionswouldbehigheriftheemis-sionsassociatedwithupgrad-ingtheresultingbitumenintosyntheticcrudeoilwerein-cludedasmostupgradingtakesplaceoff-site.Steamedbitumenisoftenassociatedwiththeproductionofhydrogensuldeknowntobeapotentneurotoxinduetoachemicalreactioncalledaquathermosiswherehighersteamtemperaturestendtogenerategreatervolumesofthetoxicgas.AlongwithhydrogensuldestudieshaveshownpolycyclicaromatichydrocarbonsPAHsknowncarcinogens-arealsocontainedwithinemissionsfrombothupgradersandstor-agetanksalongwithbenzenetolueneethylbenzenexylenechloromethaneandacetoneallshowntohavenegativeeffectsonhumanhealth.AERregulationscurrentlytakeintoaccountallinten-tionalandunintentionalemis-sionsfromoilandgaswhichincludefumesassociatedwithgasstoredinbitumentanksCurransaidandmonitorforsubstanceslikehydrogensul-deandsulphurdioxide.IndustryexpandingLikeelsewhereintheprov-inceoilsandsdevelopmentisrapidlyexpandinginthenorth-westerncornernearPeaceRiverwheredepositsaretoodeeptoallowforanythingotherthaninsituoperations.ShellreceivedregulatoryapprovalinAprilofthisyeartobeginexpandingonitsex-istingPeaceRiverprojectintotheCarmonCreekarea.Theexpansionwouldseebi-tumenproductionincreasedfrom12500barrelsperdayto80000atpeakproduction.TheCarmonCreekproj-ectplanstouseverticalsteamdriveVSDcoupledwithcy-clicsteamstimulationCSStorecoverbitumenwhichmeanspumpingpressurizedsteamintoaverticalwellatthecen-treofsixproductionwellsar-rangedhexagonallyforweeksormonthsatatime.ThesteamfromtheCSScyclewillheatthebitumentoloweritsviscositytherebyallowingthebitumentoow.WhentheCSScycleiscompleteandtheproductionwellshavebeensteamsoakedoncethecentralsteaminjectionwellwillbegintosteamcontinuously.ThissteaminjectionprocesswillpushsteamhorizontallytowardtheproducingwellsstatesShellsprojectapplication.EachCSScycleisprojectedtolastonetotwoyears.Theprojectwillinclude810newwellsfrom18wellpads.Eachsetofsevenwellswillcover3.4hectaresandwilltapa600-metredeepreservoir.Atypicalsetofwellsisex-pectedtoremaininoperationforabout10years.OtheractiveoperationsintheareaincludeBaytexEn-ergyCorp.sCliffdaleandHarmonValleyprojectsalongwithPennWestPetroleumsSealMain.SouthernPacicResourcesCorp.hasapilotprojectandseveralothersareexpectedtostartupoverthenexttwoyears.Huskyalsooperatesasmallerprojectof35oilwellsinthearea.Shellspumpjacksdrawoilfrom600metresundergroundaspartofitssteam-assistedinsituoilrecoveryprojectnearPeaceRiver.Anexpansionprojectforthesitewasrecentlyapproved.PhotocourtesyofShellCanadaIndustryOilGas