Electric submersible pumps
One of the most significant technological improvements to our SAGD process has been the introduction of electrical submersible pumps (ESPs), rather than using natural gas, to bring the oil to the surface. We worked with various vendors to design and develop the pumps for SAGD operations, which were introduced at Foster Creek in 2003.
One of the benefits of using ESPs is a reduction in our steam to oil ratio (SOR). The SOR is the amount of steam it takes to produce a barrel of oil. Cenovus's SOR is one of the lowest in the industry. Our Foster Creek and Christina Lake projects had a combined steam to oil ratio of approximately 2.3 in 2016. This means we used approximately 2.3 barrels of water to produce one barrel of oil. The water we convert to steam is primarily brackish water, which is not suitable for animal or human consumption, or agriculture, and is mostly recycled. A low SOR results in lower water usage, more efficient use of steam, a reduction of emissions per barrel of oil recovered and an overall reduction in operating costs.