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Water Use Performance

Updated August 2019

Energy companies use water throughout the life cycles of their projects and activities. It's our job to ensure that Alberta's energy industry uses water resources responsibly and to identify where there is room for improvement.

Our Alberta Water Use Performance Report shows how water is allocated and used to recover oil, gas, and oil sands resources. This annual report is part of our larger industry performance program, which measures, evaluates, and reports on the energy development activities that we regulate.

Our report includes information about water allocation and use by four main oil and gas extraction technologies:

Because the amount of water used for conventional oil and gas drilling and operations is typically quite small, you won't find them discussed in the report. Water used for refining and processing activities is also not included in the report.

Highlights

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Highlights:

  • Across the Alberta energy industry, companies are using much less nonsaline water than what is allocated to them.
  • Only 12 per cent of nonsaline water allocated to all industries in the province was allocated for oil and gas extraction, and the industry used only one quarter of their allocation.
  • Every technology used to recover Alberta's energy resources requires a combination of nonsaline and alternative water.
  • Twenty-one per cent of the water used by industry in 2018 was nonsaline or alternative make-up water. The remaining 79 per cent of the total amount of water used for energy development was recycled.
  • Nonsaline water use intensity across the energy industry has increased by 15 per cent. As the oil sands mining sector uses over 80 per cent of the used nonsaline water, its intensity drives the industry average. This year in oil sands mining, a new operation came on line, a company used more water than the year previous, and one company produced less than the year previous, resulting in increased water use intensity; this demonstrates how powerful the mining sector's role in nonsaline water use intensity is.
  • The average nonsaline water use intensity for the oil sands mining sector was 2.6 barrels of nonsaline water per barrel of oil equivalent (BOE) in 2018. However, 75 per cent of the total water used for oil sands mining was recycled water, and 37 per cent of the make-up water came from surface runoff and groundwater from within the mining footprint.
  • The average nonsaline water use intensity for hydraulic fracturing was 0.52 barrels of nonsaline water per BOE in 2018. Hydraulically fractured wells only use water when the well is initially fractured, but none after the well has been fractured; this intensity rate will go down over time as the well produces without using additional water.
  • The average nonsaline water use intensity for enhanced oil recovery was 0.61 barrels of nonsaline water per BOE in 2018. Enhanced oil recovery producers have shown a 22 percent improvement in the technology's nonsaline water use intensity over the last five years.
  • The average nonsaline water use intensity for in situ operations was 0.2 barrels of nonsaline water per BOE in 2018—an increase of almost 4 per cent. This is due to high rates of produced water recycling and alternative water source use.