There are two groundwater monitoring focus areas:
1) Regional groundwater monitoring throughout our entire Primrose/Wolf Lake Oil Sands (PAW) Project area
Canadian Natural’s existing groundwater monitoring network at the Primrose/Wolf Lake Oil Sands Project (PAW) area consists of water source wells at regional monitoring wells, shallow plant site monitoring wells and government research monitoring wells. Canadian Natural has over 250 regional groundwater monitoring wells to cover the 73,728 hectare project area.
Monitoring of source well production, groundwater levels and groundwater quality at PAW is done on an ongoing basis as part of the Alberta government approvals to operate the project. Results are reported annually to the Alberta Government.
Groundwater impacts are expected to be limited to the vicinity of the flow to surface sites due to the relatively slow migration rate of groundwater in the aquifers and the low concentrations of dissolved bitumen components in the groundwater.
During summer 2013, 21 new wells were added to increase the density of monitoring well coverage in Primrose South and Primrose East.
2) Flow to surface groundwater monitoring at the Primrose South location (09-21) and the Primrose East locations (10-01, 10-02 and 2-22)
At the Primrose/Wolf Lake Oil Sands Project (PAW), we know the groundwater flows at rates of centimeters to 10’s of meters per year. It is expected that bitumen emulsion at surface came in contact with fresh water aquifers via thin fissures. However, groundwater flows very slowly in the subsurface, which allows us to address any potential groundwater quality changes. Furthermore, the cooler temperature of the aquifers causes the bitumen emulsion viscosity (thickening of the bitumen emulsion) to increase, thereby limiting its movement in the groundwater, away from the fissure.
In 2014 we will drilled up to 100 additional groundwater monitoring wells in the vicinity of the four sites to obtain a better understanding of the aquifers and to assess any impacts to the groundwater. This includes understanding the extent of the bitumen emulsion and the potential associated groundwater impacts, if any.
To date, we have confirmed that the environmental impacts to the aquifer are localized to the sites. If any changes in groundwater quality are detected, remediation and/or further monitoring will be implemented to ensure that groundwater effects are contained and any further impacts to the environment are limited.