As of March 2018, companies are encouraged to submit applications for all activities of a major energy project as a single, integrated application.
What is considered a major project?
Major projects may have a central facility and require dependent activities that need multiple authorizations across various enactments.
Types of major projects include thermal projects, gas plants, enhanced recovery schemes, centralized water hubs, new mining developments, and intra-provincial transmission pipelines.
Major project applications are not intended for a group of activities that can be operated independently or for experimental or confidential activities.
Submission and Review Process
We recognize that major projects require more time to plan. For this reason, we encourage companies to contact us early in their project planning process to ensure their applications are complete.
Once an application is submitted, we review it to ensure that it satisfies all rules and requirements. Following our review, we will issue one decision to the company.
In some cases, companies may be asked to develop a public involvement plan. "Public involvement" is an umbrella term that encompasses all interactions and communication between Albertans, indigenous peoples, companies, and the AER.
Companies can submit an integrated application that applies across multiple acts, and these will be reviewed together. If approved, one single approval document will be issued for all applicable acts. See examples of major projects by selecting an energy development activity:
Mining project components are primarily confined within a project boundary for an integrated application.
Thermal projects contain a large number of components placed within a project area that can be included as part of the integrated application.
Oil and gas projects contain a large number of components placed within a project area that can be included as part of the integrated application.
Pipelines are often a component of other energy developments (e.g., thermal and oil and gas projects), however, a pipeline may also be considered a major project. A major pipeline project includes associated infrastructure components (e.g., pump stations, tank farms) which may be combined into an integrated application.
One Application, One Review, One Decision
Referred to as the 1:1:1 process, an integrated application is subject to a single regulatory review that results in a single AER decision:
The integrated application process does not alter existing regulatory requirements. All existing requirements must be met unless a specific waiver or variance request is explicitly granted under the appropriate legislative framework.
We recognize that major projects require more time to plan. For this reason, we encourage companies to contact us early in their project planning process to ensure their integrated applications are complete. This is a voluntary process and applicants can always choose to submit individual applications using existing processes.
Learn more about the integrated application process for major projects by selecting a topic below:
An integrated application contains the applications for the activities regulated by the AER that are required over the life cycle of a major project, from construction to operation and final closure.
Integrated applications for major projects must include the following:
- an overview of the major project, including
- the nature and purpose of the major project,
- a summary of planned activities within the development that are expected to occur over the major project’s life cycle with expected timelines, and
- a summary of how the development is expected to abandoned and reclaimed;
- a concordance table that cross-references all regulatory requirements, which indicates where in the integrated application the required supporting information can be found;
- a table of all approval requests, including
- the type of approval and its associated enactment and
- an indication as to how each pipeline, well, or facility approval under Directive 056 should be identified: whether conditional or actionable
- a table of all waiver and variance requests, including
- the associated enactment that allows each waiver or variance request,
- the waiver or variance request,
- the justification and supporting information for each waiver or variance request, and
- planned mitigation measures that will be applied if the waiver or variance request is granted;
- a table of all commitments, including
- cross-references in the application that contains the details of the commitment and
- a summary of the commitments including “will” and “must” statements;
- maps of the major project that clearly illustrate its location and development over its life cycle, including
- legal land descriptions;
- boundaries of any public involvement area;
- the location of all existing wells, pipelines, facilities, in situ oil sands schemes, mines, and associated infrastructure, regardless of whether they are operated by the applicant;
- the location of all the applicant’s proposed wells, pipelines, facilities, in situ oil sands schemes, mines, and associated infrastructure;
- the location of all existing and proposed roads;
- identification of all roads, existing and proposed, that are expected to be used in the major project;
- the scale of each map;
- the date each map was prepared; and
- the name of the person who prepared each map.
- a risk management section that includes
- an overview of the applicant’s experience with the types of activities for which approvals are being sought;
- the general principles, processes, and procedures the applicant will use to manage risk;
- a summary of the key project risks that have been identified and evaluated; and
- a summary of risk avoidance, mitigation, and preventive measures based on the specific risks identified and assessed for the requested activities within the application; and
- a summary of public involvement activities, including
- the information packages that were provided to members of the public,
- a summary of outstanding concerns,
- the actions or commitments made to address the concerns, and
- how the applicant will continue to engage throughout the life cycle of the project.
The AER will complete a single regulatory review of all activities at the same time, rather than the traditional approach of separate reviews for activities submitted as a series of individual applications over time.
Integrated applications will be reviewed using the AER’s risk-informed approach in which those activities that represent the greatest risks will be subject to the most detailed review.
The AER will issue a single decision with respect to the major project as described in the integrated application. However, the AER may deny certain activities within the major project if the activities do not meet their respective requirements.
The existing regulatory appeal process will continue to apply after a decision is made.
If the major project is approved, the AER may issue a consolidated approval document that incorporates various separate decisions into one approval document. If approved in part, the AER may issue a single approval document.
The single approval document will contain approvals and associated conditions for all of the enactments applied for and which are necessary to operate the major project throughout its life cycle. The AER may include conditions to require the submission of information, known as project updates, at a later date in the major project’s life cycle.
If an activity is expired, denied, or cancelled, its dependent activities may also be denied or cancelled. For example, if the land access for a pad site is denied, the associated well, pipeline, or facility on that land may also be denied.
A single approval may align specific terms or expiry dates to provide clarity of regulatory requirements across enactments. If these timelines or expiry dates are not met, the associated activities within the single approval document may expire or be cancelled.
Well, Pipeline, and Facility Approvals
Well, pipeline, and facility activity approvals under Directive 056 may be issued as either “conditional” or “actionable.” This approval status is only available with an integrated application for major projects to support providing a comprehensive and complete picture of the project in a single application.
Because an integrated application spans the life cycle of a major project, not all of the precise project details will be available at the time of application. However, sufficient detail should be provided to allow us to decide on the application. Details related to public safety should be complete, and some technical information may be given as a range. For example, the projected depth of a well could be given as a range from 1000m to 1500m, with the exact details provided before starting to drill.
|Current state||Proposed Future State|
|Type of Information Requirement||D056 Approval
All information must be exact
|Conditional D056 Approval
Information can be submitted at a general level of detail
|Actionable D056 Approval
Information must be exact prior to commencing construction
|Emergency response planning||Completed||Completed||Completed|
|Well purpose - surface location||4-16-3-21W4||SW-16-3-21W4||4-16-3-21W4|
|Well purpose - bottom hole location||12-16-3-21W4||~1km horizontal in any direction||12-16-3-21W4|
|Well purpose - surface casing depth||67m||between 50 and 80m||67m|
|Well purpose - projected depth||1452m||up to 1500m||1452m|
|Well purpose - total vertical depth||488m||between 400 and 500m||488m|
An “actionable” activity is one that allows the company to immediately act on the approval without the need to submit additional information.
A “conditional” activity is one that cannot be undertaken until the precision of certain information requirements have been met. After verification, the activity will be labelled as actionable in the approval and the company can undertake that activity.
During a project’s life cycle, the following events could also affect the single approval:
- Renewals: individual enactment approvals within the single approval document may need to be renewed over the life of the project. Companies are encouraged to submit multiple renewal requests as an integrated application for renewals when the timing for the renewals is similar.
- Amendments: an amendment application is made if a company proposes a new activity or a change to an approved activity that was not considered by the AER during a previous integrated application review. Companies are encouraged to submit amendment requests as an integrated application for the associated activities that require approvals across multiple different enactments.
- Transfers: the requirements for the transfer of the whole or a part of the major project will be outlined in the single approval document as some activities that were initially reviewed together may be required to be transferred together with new or existing conditions.
- Project updates: these are submissions of additional information to satisfy approval conditions. The single approval document will be updated to record the submission. The AER may choose to verify, review, or audit the information submitted. Examples of project updates include submissions to change conditional to actionable status and reports and plans as required by approval conditions.
Note that renewals, amendments, and transfers are all various forms of applications; therefore they are subject to existing requirements and the application processes.
Why We’re Doing This
By grouping all applications for a major project into a single application, we can review separate elements of a project at once, rather than reviewing them one at a time over many months or years.
Our one application, one review, one decision approach also makes our application review process more transparent for anyone looking to understand the full scale of a proposed energy project.
Learn more about our Integrated Decision Approach.
For more information, please contact our Customer Contact Centre.