CALGARY, AB, Canada, May 16, 2012 -- A new study takes a close look at commercial and emerging technologies and their potential for maximizing water recycling and minimizing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and waste generation in Alberta oil sands.
The report, completed by Alberta Innovates - Energy and Environmental Solutions (AI-EES), in collaboration with the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), Alberta Environment and Water (AEW), and nine in situ producers, provides insight for sustainable oil sands development in Alberta.
"In the context of sustainable development of oil sands in Alberta, water has become an issue of concern," said Dr. John Zhou, Executive Director of Environmental Management with AI-EES and Steering Committee Chair. "Water use and water treatment are closely linked to the energy efficiency of thermal recovery process and the carbon intensity of bitumen from the process."
The Thermal In-Situ Water Conservation Study assesses the impact of increasing water recycling and moving toward Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) on energy usage, GHG emissions, and waste generation in thermal in situ production facilities. The study also identifies promising new water treatment technologies that balance environmental tradeoffs and economic returns.
"Water consumption, waste generation, and GHG emissions are all important considerations in technology selection for SAGD water treatment. This study has provided a clear picture for the tradeoffs and identified the opportunities to improve energy and water efficiency," said Clyde Fulton, Specialist, Water Treatment, Statoil Canada, and Steering Committee member.
"The collaborative work on this study shows the commitment by government, industry and the scientific community to demonstrate Alberta's leadership in responsible energy development," said Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Diana McQueen.
"We are dedicated to delivering a strong economy along with strong environmental outcomes. We can have it both ways. And we will."
The participating in situ producers were BP Canada, Canadian Natural Resources Limited Cenovus Energy, Conoco-Phillips, Nexen Inc., PennWest Exploration, Statoil Canada, Suncor Energy, and Total E&P Canada Ltd. The study was conducted by Jacobs Consultancy.
Key findings include:
* There are trade-offs between water use, GHG emissions and waste generation;
* Produced Water Recycle Rates (PWRR) can surpass 90 percent with existing technologies;
* The Blowdown Evaporation technology, where an evaporator is used on the boiler blowdown, had the best balance of water recycle and GHG emissions; and
* New technologies can improve the performance gap between GHG emissions and water recycle, but ultimately may provide more value in operating reliability.
AI-EES initiated an industry and government sponsored study to better understand the trade-offs between water recycling, GHG emissions and waste generation for various water treating technologies.
Alberta Innovates - Energy and Environment Solutions (AI-EES) is the lead agency for energy and environmental research in Alberta. It is a catalyst to promote the development of innovative, integrated ways to convert Alberta's natural resources into market-ready, environmentally responsible energy and the sustainable management of Alberta's water resources. AI-EES brings together decision makers from government, industry and the resource community, as well as research and technology organizations, to develop solutions for the biggest challenges facing Alberta's energy and environment sectors.