Long Lake (oil sands)

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The Long Lake oil sands upgrader project is an in situ oil extraction project 40 km (25 mi) southeast of Fort McMurray in the Athabasca oil sands region of Alberta. The project has been shut down indefinitely after the deaths of two workers caused by an explosion January 16, 2016 in the Hydrocracker Unit. The project is operated by Nexen, a wholly owned subsidiary of China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) Limited.[1] Long Lake is an integrated steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) and upgrading operation that uses a proprietary OrCrude technology as well as hydrocracking and gasification to produce Premium Synthetic Crude (PSC) oil. Production capacity at Long Lake is 72,000 barrels per day (11,400 m3/d) of bitumen which, when upgraded, generates approximately 58,500 barrels per day (9,300 m3/d) of crude oil.

Anzac (Long Lake) Heliport
Airport type Private
Owner/Operator Nexen
Location Anzac
Time zone MST (UTC−07:00)
 • Summer (DST) MDT (UTC−06:00)
Elevation AMSL 1,612 ft / 491 m
Coordinates 56°25′27″N 110°57′52″W / 56.42417°N 110.96444°W / 56.42417; -110.96444Coordinates: 56°25′27″N 110°57′52″W / 56.42417°N 110.96444°W / 56.42417; -110.96444
CNZ2 is located in Alberta
Location in Alberta
Number Length Surface
ft m
1 76 × 101 23 × 31 Asphalt


In 2001, Nexen formed a joint venture with OPTI Canada Inc. (OPTI) to develop the Long Lake lease using SAGD for in-situ bitumen production and OrCrude technology to upgrade the bitumen to PSC.[3]

The first phase of the project received regulatory approval in 2003 and was sanctioned in 2004. Construction at the site began in 2004. Steam injection began in 2007 and the first production was in 2008.[4]

SAGD bitumen operations at Long Lake started in mid-2008 and production of PSC from the upgrader began in 2009. Early in 2009, Nexen acquired an additional 15% interest in the Long Lake project, increasing the company’s ownership level to 65%. Following this acquisition, Nexen became responsible for operating the entire project.

There have been some technical problems and the project has failed to meet production projections. As of early 2011, the site was producing about 30,000 barrels per day (4,800 m3/d) and OPTI was struggling under a heavy debt load and lack of liquidity. On February 1, 2011, OPTI appointed Lazard Freres & Co., a bankruptcy specialist, raising speculation that restructuring or bankruptcy for the company was imminent.[5][6] In 2011, CNOOC Limited acquired OPTI, which included the 35% non-operated interest in the Long Lake project and joint venture lands.

On February 25, 2013, Nexen was acquired by CNOOC Limited.[7]

On June 11, 2015, Nexen spilled an estimated five million litres of bitumen, water and sand when a pipeline failed. The spill was not discovered until July 15, 2015.

On January 16, 2016 An explosion occurred in the hydrocracker unit killing Drew Foster, 52 and injuring Dave Williams, 28 who succumbed to his injuries January 25, 2016. The plant has not restarted operations.


The Long Lake upgrader uses SAGD to extract bitumen from the underground oil sands. The process involves using two separate horizontal wells into the reservoir. One well is used to inject steam, which reduces the viscosity of the bitumen. The previously stable bitumen then drains into the second well, which extracts it to the surface.[8]

The Long Lake project uses OPTI's OrCrude process, which refines by-products of the extracted bitumen into usable fuel, which is used to generate steam. This process also generates hydrogen, which fuels the refinement of extracted bitumen through hydrocracking.[9]


The Long Lake (oil sands) upgrader is linked with the Enbridge Athabaska Pipeline (Line 37), a 17-kilometre-long, 12-inch diameter pipe from Long Lake to Cheecham terminal.[10] Enbridge’s 540-kilometre Athabasca (Line 19) from Cheecham to Hardisty, a major part of the network that serves Alberta's oil sands, "can carry up to 570,000 barrels per day of crude from the Athabasca and Cold Lake regions to Hardisty, Alta., a major pipeline hub in eastern Alberta, about 200 kilometres southeast of Edmonton."[10]

2013 Alberta floods[edit]

Main article: 2013 Alberta floods

Enbridge Pipelines (Athabasca) Inc., a subsidiary of Enbridge Inc., (TSX:ENB) (NYSE:ENB) reported a pipeline leak site, about 70 kilometres southeast of Fort McMurray, near its Cheetham terminal on June 22, 2013 of approximately 750 barrels of Light Synthetic Crude oil from CNOOC’s Long Lake upgrader SAGD project that spilled into a wetland area near Anzac.[11] Unusually heavy rainfall in the region may have caused "ground movement on the right-of way that may have impacted the pipeline."[12] Operations between Hardisty and Cheecham were restored on June 23 when Enbridge’s Athabasca pipeline (Line 19) was safely restarted.[12]

2015 oil spill[edit]

On July 15, 2015, the pipeline oil spill at the facility was discovered in the afternoon[13] by a worker in which the factory's failsafe system was unable to detect.[14][15] As of July 16, 2015, at least 5,000,000 litres (1,100,000 imp gal; 1,300,000 US gal)—or 31,500 barrels[16]—of oil emulsion has been spilt onto an area of approximately 16,000 square metres (170,000 sq ft),[13] The company said efforts were made to stabilise the leak,[13] such as shutting down operations at the time of discovery and isolating the area.[16] The company said the pipeline was installed in 2014 and contains an emulsion mixture of bitumen, wastewater, and oil sand.[16][17] Determining the cause of the spill would take months, according to a company employee.[18]

Efforts were made to clean up the affected area, such as vacuum trucks, and avoid further environmental impact, like affecting wildlife.[19] On July 19, one duck was found dead from the spill.[20][21]

As of September 2015, the facility has resumed operations, but 45 pipelines still remain shut down.[22][23]


  1. ^ "Nexen". Company homepage. Nexen. Retrieved February 17, 2012. 
  2. ^ Canada Flight Supplement. Effective 0901Z 5 January 2017 to 0901Z 2 March 2017
  3. ^ "Phase One". Company homepage. Nexen. Archived from the original on May 10, 2010. Retrieved October 17, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Phase One". Company homepage. Nexen. Retrieved October 17, 2010. 
  5. ^ Cattaneo, Claudia (February 2, 2011). "Hard lessons for OPTI in the oil sands". Financial Post. Retrieved February 4, 2011. 
  6. ^ Kiladze, Tim (February 2, 2011). "OPTI's future looking bleak". Globe and Mail. Retrieved February 4, 2011. 
  7. ^ CNOOC Limited Completes Acquisition of Nexen Inc.
  8. ^ Bitumen Recovery & Extraction
  9. ^ How Long Lake Works
  10. ^ a b Canadian Press (June 25, 2013). "Enbridge says spill from Line 37 near Fort McMurray, Alta., is being cleaned up". Edmonton Journal. 
  11. ^ Wynnyk, Ferne (June 25, 2013). "Suncor cuts production because of flood-related Enbridge pipeline shutdowns". McMurray. Retrieved June 25, 2013. 
  12. ^ a b "Line 37 Release". Enbridge Media Centre. June 25, 2013. Retrieved June 25, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c "Nexen pipeline leak in Alberta spills 5 million litres". CBC News. July 16, 2015. Retrieved July 17, 2015. 
  14. ^ Paperny, Anna Mehler (July 17, 2015). "Alberta oil spill: When 'failsafe' leak detection systems fail". Global News. Retrieved 18 July 2015. 
  15. ^ Mah, Bill (17 July 2015). "Nexen spill discovered by worker walking by". Edmonton Journal. Retrieved July 18, 2015. 
  16. ^ a b c Williams, Nia; De Souza, Mike (July 17, 2015). "Nexen apologizes for oil sands pipeline spill, cause unknown". Reuters. Retrieved July 17, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Cleanup in western Canada after oil sands spill". July 17, 2015. Retrieved July 17, 2015. 
  18. ^ De Souza, Mike; Williams, Nia (September 1, 2015). "Nexen expects Long Lake oil sands shutdown to take two weeks". Reuters. Retrieved September 25, 2015. 
  19. ^ Bennett, Dean (18 July 2015). "Alberta oil spill cleanup begins, but cause still uncertain". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 19 July 2015. 
  20. ^ "One dead duck found at Nexen Energy pipeline spill site in northern Alberta | National Post". News.nationalpost.com. Retrieved 2015-07-31. 
  21. ^ "Nexen - News Release". Nexencnoocltd.com. Retrieved 2015-07-31. 
  22. ^ http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL1N11N14720150917
  23. ^ http://www.fortmcmurraytoday.com/2015/09/17/long-lake-resumes-operations-as-more-pipeline-suspensions-lifted

External links[edit]