Regulator calls for co-ordinated approach to energy projects
The industrial hub next door to Edmonton is so congested with pipelines and refineries that it’s time to try a new approach, says Jim Ellis, CEO of the Alberta Energy Regulator.
This summer, a massive Grand Rapids pipeline project was held up in the Industrial Heartland area when its proposed route ran right into crowded pipeline corridors and new industries under construction.
The company was ordered to revise the route for the 900,000-barrel-a-day pipeline in several places, says Ellis.
So Ellis wants to try the new “play-based” approach which would require companies to get together and co-ordinate their plans rather than have each company bring forward its projects separately for approval.
It’s a novel idea from the new regulator that is keeping a sharp eye on “new issues,” says Ellis.
“We have to trying something if we want more development,” said Ellis.
Currently, the play-based approach is being tried for the first time in the remote forests around Fox Creek where four companies are working together to reduce the number of access roads and well pads that will cut though the forest.
Under a co-ordinated plan, the companies would be able to assess at the outset the cumulative, or combined, impact of all their projects on the land and bring that overall plan to individual landowners.
Currently, individual landowners have to deal with each oil company that wants to cross their land and they have no idea of the overall impact of industry.
In an urban area like the Industrial Heartland, the municipality would obviously have a role to play in developing a more co-ordinated approach, said Ellis.
“We couldn’t get that pipeline all the way through the area, it’s too congested,” he said.
Getting companies to work more closely together isn’t that hard — most of them want to reduce their footprint. “We don’t have to use a stick,” he said.
“It’s about better managing activity on the landscape.”