Meadow Creek Oil Sands is a proposed steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) project being developed by a joint venture between Suncor (75%) and Nexen Energy (25%), with Suncor being the operator.

The Meadow Creek development comprises two individual in-situ projects namely Meadow Creek East and Meadow Creek West, with an anticipated combined production of 120,000 barrels per day (bpd). The operational life of both the projects is up to 40 years.

The two-stage Meadow Creek East project received approval from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) in March 2017. Construction of the stage one will begin in 2019, with first oil scheduled for 2023.

An application was submitted to the AER for the development of the Meadow Creek West project in October 2017. Construction on the project is expected to start in 2023, while first oil is anticipated in 2025.

Meadow Creek Oil Sands project location and geology

Meadow Creek East is located in approximately 45km south of the city of Fort McMurray and 20km south-west of Anzac within the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in Canada.

Situated 40km south of Fort McMurray, the Meadow Creek West project site extends over an area of 150km².

The project area hosts McMurray Formation, which lies near the north-eastern margin of the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin and contains a sequence of Precambrian Shield with layers of Devonian clastics.

Meadow Creek East and West development plan

The Meadow Creek East project is planned to be developed in two stages to produce up to approximately 80,000bpd, while the Meadow Creek West will be developed in a single stage with a production capacity of 40,000bpd.

The development will start with the drilling of oil sands exploration wells and 3D seismic activities at the Meadow creek East area. It will also involve the drilling of new water source wells for testing purpose.

The preliminary construction is expected to begin by the fourth quarter 2019 and the central processing facility is scheduled for completion in 2014. The geotechnical work of the project will conclude in 2019. Suncor is currently working on the regulatory compliance requirements of the project.

Meadow Creek oil sands project infrastructure

The Meadow Creek project will feature central processing plants and infrastructure such as oil and water storage tanks for SAGD process.

The project will also involve the development of wells for thermal injection, production, water source and disposal as well as well pads and storm water ponds.

A natural gas-fired co-generation facility will be built to support the heating process. Laydown yards for storing the equipment and vehicles, and lodges for accommodating personnel are also planned for construction.

The pipelines and power distribution lines will be laid as part of the development. Access roads and multi-use corridors will also be constructed in the project area.

Application of SAGD technology

The SAGD technology is used to extract heavy crude oil from the oil reservoir with the help of steam injection. Two horizontal parallel wells are drilled, one above the other into the oil sand reservoir, of which the upper well injects steam into the reservoir. A viscous form of crude oil called bitumen softens by the heat of the steam and then flows by gravity to the lower well.

The softened bitumen and water from the lower well are then pumped to the surface and transported to processing facilities for separation. The bitumen is either refined into gasoline and diesel or directly sold in the market.