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Water Use Performance

Our annual water use report discloses how much water energy companies in Alberta use—including how much water is being recycled—for activities including oil sands (mining and in situ), hydraulic fracturing, and enhanced oil recovery. This report is part of our industry performance program, which measures, evaluates, and reports on the energy development activities we regulate.

Enhanced Oil Recovery Water Use

Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) improves hydrocarbon recovery by injecting fluid(s) into a hydrocarbon reservoir to add to or maintain reservoir energy (pressure), displace hydrocarbons to production wells, and/or alter the reservoir fluids so that hydrocarbon flow and recovery are improved. In the majority of EOR schemes water is used as either the only injection fluid, as a means to carry additives (polymers, surfactants, etc.), or as a secondary fluid for extraction. 

In 2017, EOR used over 12.7 million cubic metres of nonsaline water (12.6 per cent of the nonsaline water allocated for EOR) to produce nearly 114 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE). Simply put, EOR used 0.70 barrels of nonsaline water to produce one BOE. Between 2013 and 2017, nonsaline water use volume for EOR decreased by 33 per cent while production from EOR also decreased by 12 per cent. The production decrease is mainly due to a decrease in EOR activity across the province as older EOR projects have been decommissioned.

Overall, EOR has shown a 25 per cent improvement in its nonsaline water use intensity from 2013 to 2017.

The data show that nonsaline water use intensity is related to the age of an EOR scheme – generally, the longer an EOR scheme has been operating, the higher its nonsaline water use intensity is. This is not always the case though, and companies have made efforts to optimize their operations with respect to nonsaline water use across all age categories of EOR.

Each sector is unique and evaluating company performance is not simply about who uses the least amount of water. It’s important to look at the size and scale of each company’s operations, and the amount of time a project has been operating in the province among other factors. 

As with other extraction technologies, company size, or cohort, is an important consideration when attempting to make comparisons. Sorting companies based on cohort size allows for more meaningful comparisons of companies that could reasonably be expected to have similar levels of sophistication, experience and ability to make adjustments to their EOR processes. 

Learn more in our detailed Enhanced Oil Recovery Water Use Report [Tableau]

Industry performance

Evaluating company performance is not simply about who uses the least amount of water. Not only is each sector unique, but both the size of a company’s operations and how long a project has been operating matter when looking at how well a company is conserving water. 

Find out why we track industry performance.