Pelican Lake is a premium asset within Canadian Natural’s portfolio. We have had great success with enhanced oil recovery in this pool, first with waterfloods and now with polymer floods. Pelican Lake is a large, shallow crude oil pool in our Northern Plains core region estimated to contain 4.1 billion barrels of original oil in place on Canadian Natural land. Although initially developed for primary production, we started converting portions of the field to waterflood in 2004, resulting in a significant production increase which reversed the previous three years of production decline. Building on that success, we began testing polymer flooding in 2005. This enhanced oil recovery technique has proven to be much more effective than waterflooding and as such, we are in the midst of converting more of the field to polymer flood.
Polymer is a chemical compound that we mix with water to create an injection that has a viscosity similar to olive oil. The application of the polymer flood increases oil recovery since the thicker polymer solution reduces fingering or break-through in the reservoir. Polymer flooding has the potential to increase ultimate recovery to 17% of the original oil in place at a relatively low cost; approximately an incremental $3 to $4 per barrel in operating cost, plus an incremental $10 to $13 per barrel of reserves in capital cost.
Since converting from primary production to the polymer flood requires us to re-pressurize the reservoir with the polymer solution, the full response from the polymer flood is typically seen 9 to 24 months from injection. Production is expected to peak in 2015 and plateau at approximately 80,000 barrels per day. As in any waterflood, optimizing water handling is key to the process – polymer flooding is no different. We recycle more than 90% of our produced water, and we have initiated brackish water usage to mix with the polymer. We have been operating in the area for more than 10 years and our staff has done a tremendous job adapting to new technology while minimizing our operating and capital costs. Currently we are working on enhancements to the process to optimize our field operations. We are testing the polymer flood in regions with poor crude oil quality and continue to optimize the quantity and type of polymer we use. Improvements to our facilities design have been made and we are now building larger mixing units and are enhancing our polymer distribution system.