Water stewardship technology & innovation

Water is key to our operations. How we handle water impacts the environment, so it is important to us and our stakeholders in the areas where we operate. We’re always looking for ways to be more efficient with the water we use and to reduce our overall consumption. We recycle produced water at all of our oil sands facilities. Here are some examples of the technology and innovation we use to increase the efficiency and reduce the volume of water used in our operations.

Reusing wastewater

At our Sunrise oil sands facility we use process-affected water from a neighbour’s tailings ponds as a water source, a mutually beneficial agreement that reduces our need for fresh groundwater.

We implemented a water re-use system at our Lima Refinery in 2019, which uses filtration, softening and reverse osmosis to remove suspended solids, oil, grease and other oil-related elements, as well as compounds from process water. The system has resulted in a decrease of more than 40% in fresh water use at the refinery, and an overall decrease in discharge volume to the Ottawa River while maintaining discharge limits that are protective of river water quality.

We developed a system to recycle wastewater from the camps at our Foster Creek and Christina Lake oil sands operations. Treated wastewater is trucked from our treatment facility and re-used at our sites for drilling wells, making ice roads in the winter and suppressing dust in the summer.

Industry collaboration

Cenovus participates in the Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) Water Environmental Priority Area and is a member of the Water Technology Development Centre, a field-scale laboratory for testing water treatment and recycling technologies. The dedicated facility, shared by Cenovus and three peer companies, can test five technologies simultaneously and should help accelerate the development and implementation of new water process technologies.

Through the Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada’s (PTAC) Water Innovation Planning Committee, we participate in joint industry projects related to water management for hydraulic fracturing, part of the Alberta Upstream Petroleum Research Fund.

Improving water efficiency

Our patented blowdown boiler technology helps us get more steam from every barrel of water we use at our oil sands projects. Typical steam generators convert about 80% of the water they use into steam. With our blowdown boiler technology, we can achieve up to a 90% conversion rate and we can recycle a greater percentage of that water over and over again. This reduces our demand for additional or make-up water for our steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) process, and it means we use much less water overall to generate steam.

We use electric submersible pumps to get oil out of our oil sands reservoirs. They help us improve production rates and keep temperatures in the reservoir low, reducing the overall amount of steam (and therefore water) we need to produce our oil.