Resource is brought to you by the Alberta Energy Regulator.
Alberta - October 30, 2016

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.”

Pilot projects

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.

Each application the AER receives is handled individually, even though many applications are for the same project or development, which means people who may be interested or affected must review every application to try to understand how they all fit together in one project. This isn’t easy or efficient.

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Story Comments

Cheryl Bruce

Not the greatest idea as it is well known that the AER does not do it's homework when looking into the background of the operators. There is supposed to be participant involvement (rarely happens), confirmation that the operator holds the mineral lease or the ROE to access the landowner's property; attached surveys listing defined workspace. This is not a new concept--the AER has been doing this illegally for years--giving one approval for multiple activities on one site. Why are you trying to tell us now that this is a new concept? I can point on many sites that were approved for a single well site that ended up with batteries, tanks & structures with no legitimate approvals prior to October 31, 2016. Why is the AER still trying to cover up it's mistakes rather than correcting their mistakes from the past. Our children's children are going to be paying for AER screw-ups for years.

Harold Higgins

So good to hear and in my opinion " it's was time and long over due" After a life time in the Alberta oilfields remembering having to wait on licences and permits so often on the same little project--- it is about time "E R C B " finally looked at the complete project instead of little piece meal parts. This step will help save time and money and flustration for all involved. Great news.


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