Author: Gordon M. GroatPhD(abd), MSc, MA, BGS, AAScConsulting ScientistLeduc Number 1 Energy Discovery Centre#6, 20 Haven AvenueDevon, Alberta T9G 2B9www.email@example.comOpen Source // Public Distribution
Major issues include the amount of water used to support oil sands operations. Impact on aqua ecosystems Imperial Oil has reduced water use from 3.5 barrels a day to 0.5 barrels to make a barrel of oil from 1985. It also recycles 95% of the water used in the production of synthetic crude. In situ production leverages brackish water and recycles 85% of that water.Brackish water is desalinated and put through a softening process in order to make it suitable for use.
Using a source-to-tap, multi-barrier approach, this program regulates the systems that supply water to approximately 3 million Albertans.The remaining 500,000 Albertans draw their water from systems not covered by Alberta Environment legislation (including farms, First Nations reserves, communal systems and some homes). In these cases, drinking water is monitored by Regional Health Authorities and Alberta Health and Wellness, with the exception of First Nations, who come under federal jurisdiction.Alberta’s program has five main components:LegislationMunicipal water systems, their operator certification, water source protection and compliance are covered under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and various regulations, codes and approvals.ProtectionThis refers to proactive/preventative measures and emergency response, reducing risk to water consumers and liability to the owners of waterworks systems. Proactive measures include source water protection, water and wastewater operator certification and lab data quality assurance.Drinking water systemsBy law in Alberta these systems must be constructed to Alberta Environment design standards and operated according to provincial facility approvals. Key components are the drinking water facility and funding programs for municipal and regional systems.Performance assuranceApprovals, compliance and enforcement activities ensure that waterworks system owner(s)/operator(s) meet the necessary standards and are committed to continuous improvement.Knowledge/awarenessThis is another key part of the source-to-tap, multi-barrier approach, for water consumers and operators alike. http://environment.alberta.ca/01220.html
Alberta has a groundwater observation well network which monitors shallow, intermediate, and deep wells across the Province. Data regarding these wells may be acquired by the public at: http://www3.gov.ab.ca/env/water/gwsw/quantity/waterdata/gwdatafront.aspThe Groundwater Observation Well Network (GOWN) is a network of groundwater wells that monitor groundwater levels in aquifers across Alberta. Some wells in the network also monitor a variety of groundwater quality parameters. Using this page you can access the historical groundwater level information for the active wells in the network.The Alberta Research Council started the network in 1957 with three wells; one in each of Drayton Valley, Leduc and Milk River. In 1982 Alberta Environment took over the network which had expanded to 145 wells. At that time there were 55 wells distributed around the province for general water level monitoring, and 90 wells specifically monitoring conditions in the oil sands areas around Fort McMurray. Today there are about 200 wells being monitored. The network has expanded for better provincial coverage and still includes clusters of wells around highly industrialized areas such as Fort McMurray. Regional Alberta Environment staff in Lethbridge, Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie maintain the wells, download data, take manual readings and archive the data into Alberta Environment's GOWN database. The Alberta Environment Groundwater Information Centre checks the data and maintains the GOWN database.
As of December 20059,563,218 cubic decametres of water were allocated for various purposes. Of this allocation, 9,254,931 cubic decametres were for surface water and 308,287 cubic decametres were for groundwater.Based on available water use information for 2005, it is estimated that, overall, 34.5% of water allocated was actually used in Alberta. This is equivalent to almost twice the amount of natural flow in the Red Deer River each year.- The irrigation sector accounts for 43% of the total water allocations. The industrial sector accounts for 28% of allocations, followed by 11% for municipal use.- Water use in Alberta is predicted to increase to more than 3,998,600 cubic decametres by 2025 – a 21% increase from current use.http://www.albertawater.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50&Itemid=58
In Alberta, approximately two million people get their drinking water from large municipal systems. Approximately 400,000 Albertans get their water from smaller water treatment plants. The remaining 600,000 Albertans obtain their water from private systems such as wells, water co-ops or by haulingIn southern Alberta, more than 505,000 hectares of land (just 4% of the total land that can be cultivated in Alberta) are serviced by 13 irrigation districts. These irrigation networks are used by agriculture and they also supply nearly 50 communities with water for domestic use.Today, irrigated agricultural production accounts for about 18 to 20 per cent of Alberta's total agricultural production.Alberta has an agreement with Saskatchewan that guarantees that 50% of the water in each of the shared, major river basins, must be allowed to flow into Saskatchewan. This agreement is called an apportionment agreement.Alberta shares borders with British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and Montana. Currently, apportionment agreements only exist with Saskatchewan and Montana.
Water drainage flows to several different areas due to the geographical location of Alberta. In the far south, the Milk River Basin drains to the Missouri – Mississippi, farther north it drains to the Hudson Bay and about half of Alberta’s water drainage flows to the Mackenzie Delta and into the Arctic.
The Athabasca water shed flow path from the Colombia ice fields through the Mackenzie river delta and into the Arctic. The impact of watershed corruption would have some impact across a wide area of Western Canada. It should be noted that oil sands structures in the Athabasca river area have been exposed to the watershed for millennia and bitchumen was used by first nations people to patch canoes.This watershed is the World’s 3rd largest and contains approximately 1/6th of Canada’s fresh water.
Alberta has an agreement with Saskatchewan that guarantees that 50% of the water in each of the shared, major river basins, must be allowed to flow into Saskatchewan. This agreement is called an apportionment agreement. There is also an apportionment agreement with the state of Montana.
In Alberta, water has been traditionally allocated on the “first-in-time, first-in-right” principle for both surface and ground water. The older the licence, the higher that user is on the priority list. This allows the owners of the first licenses issued to access the full amount of water issued before newer licensees have access, regardless of use. Furthermore, water licenses granted under this principle have no expiry date. However, licenses issued under the Water Act are now issued for a fixed period.The theory of the principle is that it protects an existing user’s rights from those who come after them and is the best way to allow for orderly development. Therefore, during a drought, a farmer with a senior licence may have access to water for irrigation, while at the same time, a city with a more recently issued licence may be forced to ask residents to ration water.
In southern Alberta, more than 505,000 hectares of land (just 4% of the total land that can be cultivated in Alberta) are serviced by 13 irrigation districts. These irrigation networks are used by agriculture and they also supply nearly 50 communities with water for domestic use.Today, irrigated agricultural production accounts for about 18 to 20 per cent of Alberta's total agricultural production.Alberta has an agreement with Saskatchewan that guarantees that 50% of the water in each of the shared, major river basins, must be allowed to flow into Saskatchewan. This agreement is called an apportionment agreement.
This is 2008 data on the water allocation detail. As you can see, agricultural consumption outstrips all other uses with commercial and cooling consuming the next largest amount of water.
Water allocations indicate large usage percentages for irrigation (ranges between 43-48%). Again, much of this is due to irrigation requirements of the southern areas of the province.
Province wide sectoral allocations
North Saskatchewan River Basin allocations
Milk River Basin sectoral water allocations
South Saskatchewan River Basin sectoral water allocations
Athabasca River Basin sectoral river allocation
Government of Alberta flow conditions plan designed to address low flow periods where allocation withdrawal would potentially damage aquatic ecosystems.
Water recycling has been stated to exceed 85% for in situ productions and 95% for mined production. Some producers report 90 to 95% water recycling rates.
Steam assisted gravity drainage was developed in the 1980s by the Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority. SAGD drills two horizontal wells in the oil sands, one at the bottom of the formation and another about 5 metres above it. These wells can be drilled in groups off central pads and can extend for miles in all directions. In each well pair, steam is injected into the upper well, the heat melts the bitumen, which allows it to flow into the lower well, where it is pumped to the surface. SAGD can produce up to 60% of the oil in place. The process requires large quantities of water and energy for generating steam, which results in significant GHG emissions.
VAPEX is similar to SAGD but instead of steam, hydrocarbon solvents are injected into the upper well to dilute the bitumen and allow it to flow into the lower well. It has the advantage of much better energy efficiency than steam injection and it does some partial upgrading of bitumen to oil right in the formation.
This is a very new and experimental method that combines a vertical air injection well with a horizontal production well. The process heats oil in the reservoir and creates a vertical wall of fire moving from the "toe" of the horizontal well toward the "heel", which burns the heavier oil components and drives the lighter components into the production well, where it is pumped out. In addition, the heat from the fire upgrades some of the heavy bitumen into lighter oil right in the formation. Historically fireflood projects have not worked out well because of difficulty in controlling the flame front and a propensity to melt the producing wells, bottom hole casing, and equipment. However, some oil companies feel the THAI method will be more controllable and practical, and have the advantage of not requiring energy to create steam, but will still require fresh water use.Image fromPetrobankPetrobank environmental statement:Negligible fresh water use50 percent less greenhouse gas emissions.Smaller surface footprint and easier reclamation
The thermal solvent process employs petroleum coke or bitumen plus oxygen as heating fuel, recycles hot solvent, and can sequester GHGs such as CO2, and criteria pollutants, such as SO2, in the reservoir. This process can provide significant reductions in costs, as it requires less water and less fuel than current steam-assisted methods.This method requires some water to cool the wellbore near the casing, otherwise the heat generated will melt the casing and other equipment in the wellbore near the injection perforations.
Water is not only a resource, it is a life source. We all share the responsibility to ensure a healthy, secure and sustainable water supply for our communities, environment and economy – our quality of life depends on it.The Government of Alberta has released the Water for Life action plan, the roadmap that the government and its partners will follow over the next 10 years. The action plan supports the goals and directions in Alberta’s renewed Water for Life strategy. The renewed strategy better reflects the population increase and economic growth Alberta has seen over the past years, and Albertans’ changing water needs. As in the original, the renewed Water for Life strategy has three main goals:Safe, secure drinking water;Healthy aquatic ecosystems; andReliable, quality water supplies for a sustainable economy.http://www.waterforlife.alberta.ca/
Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils are NPO’s that assess conditions of their watersheds and develop plans to address issues. There are currently 10 WPACs in Alberta.http://www.waterforlife.alberta.ca/543.html
Alberta Environment has a groundwater information website. Since the mid-1970’s water well drillers are required to submit drilling reports to Alberta Environment. There are approximately 500,000 records with 5,000 new drilling reports annually. http://www.envinfo.gov.ab.ca/GroundWater/
Example of Groundwater Well Data (page 1 of 2)
Example of Groundwater Well Data (page 2 of 2)
Desk and Derrick 50th Anniversary Keynote Speech on Alberta Water
Alberta H20<br />1<br />Gordon M. GroatPhD (abd) MSc (hon) MA, BGS (IPE)AASc (λβ)<br />
Leading Environmental Issues<br />Amount of Water Used<br />Groundwater Quality<br />River Water Quality<br />Tailings<br />Leading Health Concerns<br />Water quality in the Athabasca<br />Ground water quality<br />Elevated rates of cancer among first nations<br />Water Use and Water Safety<br />2<br />
3<br />Source-to-tap multi-barrier approach<br /><ul><li>2 million </li></ul>Large Municipal Systems<br /><ul><li>400,000 </li></ul>Smaller Treatment Plants<br /><ul><li>600,000 </li></ul>private systems such as wells, water co-ops or by hauling<br />
5<br />Water Use Growth Projections2005 – 2025<br />As of December 2005<br />9,254,931 cubic decametres surface water<br />308,287 cubic decametres groundwater <br />Aprox. 2X natural flow of the Red Deer River each year<br />
Athabasca River – to the Arctic<br />8<br />World’s 3rd largest watershed and contains approximately 1/6th of Canada’s fresh water.<br />
9<br />An apportionment agreement with Saskatchewan guarantees that 50% of the water in each of the shared, major river basins, must be allowed to flow into Saskatchewan. <br />
10<br />“First-in-Time, First-in-Right” <br />principle for both surface and ground water. The older the licence, the higher that user is on the priority list.<br />The first licenses issued to access the full amount of water issued before newer licensees have access, regardless of use<br />
11<br />Irrigation<br />505,000 hectares of land (4% of the total land that can be cultivated in Alberta) are serviced by 13 irrigation districts. <br />These irrigation networks are used by agriculture and they also supply nearly 50 communities with water for domestic use.Irrigated agricultural production accounts for about 18 to 20 per cent of Alberta's total agricultural production.<br />
Athabasa River ConservationFlow Conditions Plan<br />19<br />
more than 80 per cent of the water used in the oil sands is recycled (conservative estimate)<br />1 barrel of fresh water from the Athabasca River for oil sands mining is reused and recycled >18 times<br />Water Recycling<br />20<br />