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Alberta - February 11, 2020

When a company has a lightbulb moment, the last thing you want is someone to hit the off switch.

Innovation within the energy industry is constant, and the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) understands that sometimes we need to create different pathways to ensure we are keeping up with new ideas. That’s why we work hard at guiding companies and their new technologies through our regulatory framework.

A good example of this is an innovative fluid storage device used in hydraulic fracturing operations.

The Evolution of Innovation

In the early 2000s, a technology known as an aboveground synthetically lined walled storage system (AWSS), which resembles a large backyard swimming pool, emerged and the AER developed new requirements that enabled industry to use it safely. 

Minion tanks

An aboveground synthetically lined walled storage system, or AWSS, safely holds fluids used in hydraulic fracturing operations

More recently, another bright idea emerged as an alternative to the AWSS: we call it an aboveground reusable bladder with a structural frame (ABSF) device. It’s taller, takes up less space on the landscape, and features a reusable bladder housed in a rigid frame rather than a liner that can only be used one time, making it cheaper for industry and better for the environment. 

“When new technology ideas come in, we do our best to learn all about its pros and cons,” explains Joelle MacDonald, an engineer with the AER. “In this case, it was an Alberta-grown innovation, so we were able to see these devices in person, which added a level of comfort for us.” 

Role of the Regulator

The AER is no stranger to innovation, so when presented with new ideas, we listen.

ABSFs were introduced to the AER by both hydraulic fracturing operators and the manufacturer. From there, a project group was formed. The group, made up of specialized experts to assess and evaluate the use of this new technology in a way that does not compromise the safety of Albertans and the environment yet still meets the needs of industry, the manufacturer, and the AER’s requirements.

“We were familiar with this technology, but not with the risks associated with it,” says Bruce Sendecki, a senior technical advisor with the AER. “We also knew that industry had a strong desire to use ABSF devices, so we did our research until we were assured that these devices could be operated in a safe and sustainable manner.” 

Minion tanks

AER staff pose near a reusable-bladder tank. The new technology is more cost-effective for companies and takes up less space on the landscape.

As a result of this project, and to help companies understand the process and expectations for applying to use an ABSF, we updated our Checklist for Alternative Storage Applications. By updating this checklist, the AER improved the way in which we communicate to industry on how to apply to use this device, making its expectations more clear and easier for companies to get applications approved. 

To learn more about ABSF storage solutions, or to apply to use one, email the project team at Directive055@aer.ca

When new technology ideas come in, we do our best to learn all about its pros and cons.

Joelle MacDonald, AER engineer

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