47 Wells, 1 Application, 1 Decision
The AER is piloting a new single application, single decision approach
Each year, the AER receives more than 40 000 applications that can include everything from a request to access a parcel of land, to a request for approval to drill a well, to a request for water use.
The AER is changing the way operators submit those many applications, starting with a few pilot projects. Instead of many separate items, operators will submit them as one, single application, with one public notice, and will receive one single decision—be it an approval or denial. Besides being more efficient for industry, it gives communities a better idea what companies are proposing.
Under the pilots, the AER will accept a single application for multiple activities that would traditionally be applied for individually. This is called the “single application, single decision approach.”
A good example is the Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) pilot application in northeast Alberta that we recently approved. This past March, CNRL submitted a single application for heavy oil development in the Cold Lake Oil Sands Area. After a comprehensive review, we approved CNRL’s application for
- 46 wells and multiwell batteries (oil and gas processing facilities) on six pads;
- a single well pad with a battery (a total of 47 wells);
- all pipelines associated with the project,
- access roads, and
- temporary workspaces.
On August 17, after a total review time of 154 days, the AER approved the application. All related public land and licensing was reviewed and decided on together.
“The neat thing about the CNRL application was that they were able to apply for a single well pad and pipelines without knowing exact locations,” said Nicole Jones, wellbore engineer. “We eliminated approximately a third of the manual time spent on entering data.”
If CNRL had applied for this project the “traditional” way, it would have to submit about 80 individual applications, which would have taken more than nine months to review and decide on.
But this isn’t about cutting corners, because the AER applies the same rigor to these applications as all others to ensure the public and environment are protected.
A better understanding
Rather, it’s about looking at energy developments from a broader perspective—from beginning to end—and making decisions on energy projects with all of the information up front. The single application, single decision approach gives the AER a better understanding of the broader impacts of energy development and the ability to minimize potential impacts on the environment, communities, and stakeholders.
It also helps our stakeholders better understand the activities being proposed in their community, because they see all energy-related activities at once, as opposed to individual applications that come in piecemeal. It also gives a better understanding about the scope and scale of energy development where they live, work, and play.