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 typically much shallower, located from 18 to 150 metres from the surface. Well designs and regulations are in place to protect fresh water sources and prevent water contamination.

Underground Water 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 full length of the well and cemented in place. This creates a solid barrier between the well and any underground fresh water sources. With multiple layers of steel casing and cement in place, the integrity of the well should not be compromised.

Preventing Water Contamination

Like all Canadians, the oil and natural gas industry values fresh water and the industry works to prevent contaminated water. 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 hydraulic fracturing is a priority. There are several approaches to reducing fresh water use including:

  • Using low quality or otherwise unusable sources of water such as saline groundwater.
  • Re-using produced and flowback water.
  • 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.

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:

  • 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 Best Practices Guidelines

CAPP and its member companies have developed and adhere to best practices and guiding principles concerning well integrity, hydraulic fracturing and safeguarding surface and groundwater resources through sound wellbore construction practices.

Oil and natural gas companies value clean, safe surface and groundwater just as all Canadians do. Throughout all operations from drilling to pipeline transportation of hydrocarbons to processing and refining, regulations and best practices are in place to ensure that surface and groundwater are protected from contamination.

  • In marine environments, Atlantic Canada’s offshore industry is committed to developing resources responsibly and strives at all times to mitigate potential impacts on the environment.