Pilot projects are in situ oil sands or heavy oil processing plants that produce less than or equal to 2000 cubic metres per day. The EPEA approval for pilot projects does not include the associated oil production sites (i.e., producing well sites and associated rights-of-way, etc.). The associated oil production sites in a pilot project follow the conservation and reclamation process set up for Upstream Oil and Gas.
Commercial projects are in situ oil sands or heavy oil processing plants producing more than 2000 cubic metres per day and require an EIA. The EPEA approval includes the associated oil production sites.
The terms and conditions of the EPEA approval require approval holders to submit several plans and reports to guide conservation and reclamation throughout the life of the project as the disturbance locations of the oil production sites are developed and reclaimed. Depending on the stage of development, these operational requirements could include the following:
Specified Enactment Direction 001: Direction for Conservation and Reclamation Submissions Under an Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act Approval for Enhanced Recovery In Situ Oil Sands and Heavy Oil Processing Plants and Oil Production Sites provides direction on the requirements of some of the operational plans required by the EPEA approval (Bulletin 2016-02: Direction for Conservation and Reclamation Submissions Under an Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act Approval for Enhanced Recovery In Situ Oil Sands and Heavy Oil Processing Plants and Oil Production Sites)
Within six months of the in situ oils sands or heavy oil processing plant ceasing operations, the approval holder must apply for an amendment to its EPEA approval for decommissioning and reclamation. The terms and conditions of an amended EPEA approval will provide further site-specific requirements for decommissioning and reclaiming.
When reclamation for an area is complete and all the terms and conditions of the EPEA approval have been met, including achieving the approved reclamation outcome, the approval holder must apply for a reclamation certificate from the AER.
Reclamation should be conducted in a timely manner to minimize environmental and fiscal liabilities. The AER recommends that operators start decommissioning and reclamation activities for an area immediately after operations have ceased or when the disturbed land is no longer required for operations.
For further information on the reclamation certificate application process for enhanced recovery in situ oil sands or heavy oil processing plants and oil production sites see the application content requirements and the frequently asked questions for EPEA-approved facilities.