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Protecting Fresh Water

Protecting water resources is a priority for Canada’s oil and natural gas industry. Today, most oil and natural gas wells are drilled to a depth of between two to three kilometres below the surface (2,000 to 3,000 metres) or more.

Drinking water aquifers are generally much shallower, between 18 and 150 meters from the surface. Wells are subject to strict rules to protect freshwater resources and prevent water contamination.

Groundwater Protection

Wells are designed and constructed to ensure underground water sources are protected. When a well is drilled, multiple layers of steel casing are inserted into the well and cemented in place. This creates a solid barrier between the well and any fresh groundwater sources.

Preventing Water Contamination

Like all Canadians, the natural gas and oil industry values fresh water and the industry works to prevent water contamination. Regulations are in place to protect the environment and to ensure a well is properly engineered to maintain safety and integrity over its full life cycle. Industry uses several tools to assure the quality, and proactively monitor the status, of the steel casing and cement for early detection of degradation including:

  • Production packers – create a seal between the well and the casing
  • Corrosion logs – identify pits, cracking, holes in the steel casing
  • Cement bond logs – measure the bond between casing and the cement determined by acoustic sonic and ultrasonic tools
  • Production log tools – record casing thickness and whether the casing has corroded.

Fresh Water Conservation

Reducing the volume of surface water and fresh groundwater used in natural gas and oil development is a priority. There are several approaches to reducing fresh water use including:

  • Recycling water within operations
  • Using low quality or otherwise unusable sources of water such as saline groundwater.
  • Re-using produced water and flowback.
  • Sharing sources of water in multiple operations or with other operators.
  • Working with communities to use treated municipal wastewater.
  • Investing in research to develop technologies that require less water.

Surface Water Conservation

Similarly, oil sands operators take steps to protect surface water and to reduce the volume of fresh water drawn from the Athabasca River or other sources. Some of these measures are:

  • Water is continuously recycled within oil sands operations.
  • In situ operations source saline groundwater for injection.
  • The withdrawal of fresh water from the Athabasca River and other sources is highly regulated and monitored.
  • Extensive ditch systems intercept surface runoff and diverts this water safely around mining and in situ operations.
  • Runoff within mining and in situ operating areas is intercepted and diverted away from undisturbed areas to prevent contamination of creeks, ponds, bogs and other surface water features.
  • Increasing energy efficiency in bitumen extraction and processing means less water is needed to make hot water (mining operations) or steam (in situ developments).

CAPP Hydraulic Fracturing Operating Practices and Guiding Principles

CAPP and its member companies have developed and adhere to best practices and guiding principles concerning groundwater testing, fresh water use, fluid handling, wellbore construction, chemical additive use and induced seismicity. These practices contribute to improving hydraulic fracturing environmental performance and transparency.