Earth Sciences Report 2000-15

Author(s) Date 2000-12-31

As the development of Alberta's oil sands extends into the non-surface mineable areas of northeastern Alberta that are covered by thick overburden, steam assisted oil recovery processes become increasingly more important in the development of those resources. One requirement for a successful steam assisted recovery process is the availability of large volumes of high quality water to generate steam, at least 3 barrels of water for every barrel of recovered oil. Increasing importance is being placed on groundwater supplies to meet the water needs of the heavy oil and oil sand producing industries.

The Alberta Geological Survey (AGS) has long recognized the importance that Quaternary aquifer systems can play in providing groundwater for local heavy oil and oil sand producers. More than 20 years ago the AGS mapped major Tertiary and Quaternary aquifer units that lie in buried bedrock channels in the Cold Lake area (Andriashek and Fenton, 1989). A number of these units, particularly the Empress Formation, continue to supply the Cold Lake area oil producers with water for Cyclic, and Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) steam recovery methods.

In 1996 the Alberta Geological Survey (EUB) conducted a study of a Quaternary aquifer system that supplied groundwater to the Alberta Oil Sand Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA) Underground Test Facility (UTF) to generate steam for an experimental SAGD method of bitumen extraction. Existing stratigraphic information was supplemented with helicopter reconnaissance and drilling of four test sites located above or adjacent to the buried Birch Channel, which is located about 1.5 kilometres south of the UTF site (Figure 1). This study presents the bedrock topography, drift thickness, and Quaternary stratigraphy in the buried Birch Channel, and briefly discusses the stratigraphic succession in an outcrop of the buried Willow Channel (Figure 1) near the Dover River.

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Andriashek, L.D. (2001): Quaternary stratigraphy of the buried Birch and Willow bedrock channels, NE Alberta; Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, EUB/AGS Earth Sciences Report 2000-15, 63 p.