Industry working together to reduce fresh water use

Corporate Responsibility

Industry working together to reduce fresh water use

A Water Technology Development Centre (WTDC) is one of the joint industry projects being developed by Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance's (COSIA) Water Environmental Priority Area (EPA). The $165-million dedicated test facility will advance new water treatment and recycling technologies for in situ oil sands development, and will allow researchers to test new technologies on ‘live’ process fluids in real world conditions.

About 80% of Alberta’s oil sands reserves can only be recovered through in situ extraction technology. In situ operations use water to produce high-temperature steam that is injected into the reservoir to heat the bitumen. As the warm bitumen is moved to the surface, the steam cools turning back into water, which is brought to the surface along with the bitumen. The water is separated from the bitumen and channeled through complex water treatment facilities to remove impurities. The treated water is recycled and re-used in the process.

In situ operators are looking to establish a world-class water technology development centre on a live oil sands facility. By improving how water is treated in in situ operations, the WTDC can further reduce the amount of water used, increasing recycling rates and improving overall energy efficiency.

The WTDC will accelerate the development and implementation of new water treatment technologies, while shortening the time required to field test technologies and move them to commercial application. Participating companies will be able to test more technologies than each could on their own, while collaboratively managing the risks and costs of technology development.

The Water Technology Development Centre will be attached to Suncor’s Firebag in situ operations and become operational in 2019. Other project members include Canadian Natural, Devon, Husky and Nexen Energy.