"At Jackfish, our engineers tapped a deep reservoir of brackish, non-potable (undrinkable) groundwater for the steaming process, which eliminated our demand for fresh water." - Chris Seasons, Devon Energy
Water is an important part of oil and gas production around the world and our industry is committed to responsible water use. We have made significant progress in reducing our use of fresh water by turning to alternatives.
Back in 2001, when Devon Energy started the planning process with the intent to not use any fresh water in its Jackfish in situ production process, it was a pretty radical notion. But the company persisted, and when Jackfish began production in 2007, Devon became the first oil sands operator to use 100 per cent saline water to create steam in its steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) operations.
Devon's Jackfish Project is
located near Conklin, Alberta.
“SAGD uses steam to heat and mobilize the bitumen, allowing it to flow to the surface,” says Devon Canada President, Chris Seasons. “And, we’re always looking for ways to conserve water. At Jackfish, our engineers tapped a deep reservoir of saline, non-potable groundwater for the steaming process.”
There were upfront financial costs attached to using saline water. First, engineers had to find suitably saline water, drilling and testing water quality a few times before finding a saline aquifer more than 250 metres below ground. Not only is this water unsuitable for drinking, it’s also unsuitable for livestock or irrigation purposes.
To accommodate the use of the saline water, the design at Jackfish incorporated special provisions for coolers, chemical batching and make up water systems where fresh water would conventionally be used.
Devon says the additional costs were worth it. “Our use of saline water was an intentional decision we made to reduce our environmental impact,” says Seasons.
Jackfish circulates over 20,000 cubic metres of saline water each day with over 90 per cent of that recycled and reused in the steaming operations.
Devon is also currently using 100% saline water for its Jackfish 2 project, and has committed to using saline water for future SAGD projects.
Meanwhile, the company actively collaborates with peers, regulators, and other multi-stakeholder groups on best practices regarding water. Devon is also participating in a variety of research studies and industry initiatives on water management; all in an effort to reduce the use of fresh water in the oil sands.