Texas-based Rangeland Energy announced this week that its Marten Hills Pipeline System has entered service in a rare corner of the northern Alberta bitumen belt where heavy oil flows without costly artificial stimulation of wells. 

Subsidiary Rangeland Midstream Canada Ltd. gained a foothold in the country early last year when it announced the project. Construction of the 53-mile crude oil and condensate system started last October and the project entered service on schedule. 

“Operators in the region are resuming previously shut-in production as they benefit from improved economics and a stronger demand for their products, said Rangeland Canada’s Briton Speer, vice president of business development. “Our goal is to stay ahead of our customers’ needs by alleviating infrastructure bottlenecks,  providing safe, reliable and high-quality transportation, and offering access to the best markets.”

The Marten Hills system extends from north-central Alberta to an interconnect with Plains Midstream Canada’s Rainbow Pipeline System, which serves the Edmonton, Alberta, hub and refining market. The system is underpinned by long-term transportation agreements with three of the region’s largest crude oil producers, who have made a combined minimum volume commitment representing 40% of the system’s capacity.

Marten Hills is a rare location, in a vast but technically difficult Alberta deposit known as the Clearwater formation, where oil flows into horizontal wells without costly hydraulic fracturing or natural gas-fired steam injections.

Recent earth sciences advances uncovered the sweet spot in a geological structure that has been known for a century. Development of Marten Hills remains in early stages, with the industry still evaluating the production area’s size and output volume potential.