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Thinking outside the box leads to environmental benefits

Mike Wasylyk, a Coordinator with our Field Technology Development team.

October 2015 – What does the automotive industry have in common with the oil sands? If you’re thinking gasoline, that’s true. But there’s also a technology commonly used in the automobile and other industries that we’ve tailored for our own needs.

Empowered to always improve, a team of our engineers looked outside our industry for ways to reduce our emissions beyond what’s required by the regulators. The team introduced a technology called flue gas recirculation that recycles exhaust from steam generators used in the steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) process, just like exhaust is recycled in our cars.

“We were the first in the oil sands to use this technology in the SAGD process and we’ve seen significant reductions in emissions,” says Mike Wasylyk, who works in implementing technology at our operations. “This has been an exciting project to be involved with and demonstrates our commitment to innovation to help improve our environmental performance.”

The technology reduces the amount of nitrogen oxides emitted into the air during the combustion of fuel and gas. In the oil sands we use natural gas in our steam generators. By using a tube to take exhaust from the steam generator, we can recycle the exhaust back into the burner. The exhaust helps cool the burner flame, reducing emissions going into the air. Early results show our emissions from the boiler are down to 20 parts per million (ppm) from 40 ppm – a 50 percent reduction. The pilot project is in operation on one boiler at Christina Lake and is expected to be in operation on additional boilers for the next expansion phase. We’re also planning to incorporate this technology at Narrows Lake.

Learn more

The oil in the oil sands doesn’t flow because it's thick and mixed with sand. We use specialized steam-assisted gravity drainage technology to drill and pump the oil to the surface. Read more about it.

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