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New well pad design demonstrates cost leadership

Well pad construction at our Christina Lake project using our new zero-base module design.

May 2017 – When our oil sands production teams were challenged to come up with cost reductions, some out-of-the-box thinking produced a sleeker well pad design. To achieve this they went back to the drawing board and transformed our well pads to a Zero-Base Design (ZBD), which significantly reduced the scope, cost and construction time of this type of infrastructure.

“The new design combines everything we’ve learned over many years of operating large oil sands projects using steam,” says Gord Knaus, who is in charge of installing the new pads at our Christina Lake and Foster Creek oil sands projects. “It’s an example of how in this volatile oil price environment, innovation is more important than ever to help us be more cost efficient and improve our environmental performance.”

Compared with our previous versions, the new well pad design starts with the most basic equipment and infrastructure required for the safe and reliable operation of each phase in an oil sands production cycle. As additional equipment or infrastructure becomes necessary in the different phases of the pad lifecycle, we can add or remove and repurpose equipment as needed. In some ways it’s similar to a car manufacturer building a standardized, basic vehicle to which extras like a GPS or a bike rack can be added, removed and reused, as required.

Initiatives like this have helped Cenovus significantly improve its cost structure, including reducing its oil sands sustaining capital costs by approximately 50 percent from 2014.

The benefits of the new design compared with our previous well pads:

  • A 40 to 60 percent reduction in the cost of building materials
  • A 35 to 55 percent reduction in the overall well pad cost
  • A significant time saving in planning, engineering and procurement
  • A 30 percent reduction in field construction time
  • A 15 to 20 percent reduction in the surface footprint for some well pads

We plan to install well pads based on our new design at both our Christina Lake and Foster Creek oil sands projects, with field construction of the first of these pads expected to be completed this year.

Innovation in the oil sands

Read about how we reached a new SAGD drilling measured depth record last year and how this record allows us to push the bounds of our industry.

Learn about SAGD

Learn more about steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) technology and how we use it to safely get the oil out of the ground.

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