Electric submersible pumps
One of the most significant technological improvements to our SAGD process has been the introduction of electrical submersible pumps (ESPs). We worked with various vendors to design and develop the pumps for SAGD operations, which were introduced at Foster Creek in 2003.
ESPs allow us to effectively control how we drain the reservoir. This helps us maintain maximum contact between the steam and bitumen in the reservoir and contributes to improved production rates. ESPs also allow us to keep pressure and temperature in the reservoir low. Together, improved production rates and lower temperatures help reduce heat loss from the reservoir which reduces our overall 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 2.4 in 2018. This means we used approximately 2.4 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.