Reducing our impact to the environment is top of mind for us. Our patented blowdown boiler technology helps us to get more steam from every barrel of water we use at our oil sands projects – allowing us to use less water. In our SAGD operations, we inject steam underground to soften the thick oil in our reservoirs so that it will flow enough to be pumped to the surface. Most of the water we use to make steam is unfit for human consumption or agriculture, and we recycle it over and over again.
Typical steam generators, or boilers, convert about 80 percent of the water they receive into steam. The remaining 20 percent is disposed of or has to be treated to be reused because it has impurities in it. This is known as blowdown water. In developing our blowdown boiler technology, we challenged an industry belief that the leftover water could only be reused if it was treated. We developed a process to re-boil the leftover water without treatment which reduces cost and energy. This second boiler – the blowdown boiler – converts the majority of the leftover water into steam.
With our blowdown boiler technology, we can convert more than 90 percent of every barrel of water we use into steam and we can recycle a greater percentage of that water. That reduces our demand for make-up water by over 50 percent, and it means we use much less water overall from nearby aquifers.
We successfully commercialized our blowdown boiler technology at Foster Creek in 2011 and are currently using four blowdown boilers at this project. We’re also beginning to use blowdown boilers at our Christina Lake oil sands project.