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AER releases industry water use report to drive improved performance

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Calgary, Alberta (May 31, 2017)…

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has released a new report on how the province’s energy industry uses water all in an effort to drive improved performance from the industry.

The Alberta Energy Industry Water Use Report provides data on water used in a number of production methods for oil and gas (from hydraulic fracturing and enhanced oil recovery [EOR]) and mineable and in situ oil sands.

“Albertans depend on us to make sure the energy industry is using water in a responsible manner,” said Jim Ellis, the AER’s president and CEO. “This report provides Albertans with a better understanding of how water is being used to produce oil, gas, and bitumen.”  

Generally, companies are using less water than what is allocated to them. In 2016, 10 per cent of all nonsaline water (i.e., shallow groundwater or water taken from a lake or river or run-off collection pond) in Alberta was allocated to energy development. Of that, roughly 22 per cent was used, meaning that only 2.2 per cent of all nonsaline water allocated in the province was used for energy development last year.  

The amount of water used has remained unchanged since 2013, even while hydrocarbon production increased by 44 per cent.

The report shows that oil sands mining continues to be the largest user of nonsaline water. Over the past five years, an average of 2.7 barrels of water was needed to produce one barrel of oil equivalent (BOE), compared with hydraulic fracturing, EOR, and in situ which averaged less than 0.5 barrels of water per BOE.

The report also highlights industry efforts to recycle water resources. In 2016, EOR and in situ recycled roughly 90 per cent of all water used, as both technologies operate on a cycle where water and steam is continuously injected into the same wells. Hydraulic fracturing recycled about six per cent of all water used due to the limitations of storing or transporting hydraulic fracturing fluids. Although oil sands mining recycles water using tailings ponds, data is unavailable because companies are not required to report this information to the AER.

“While companies have made considerable efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle water, we believe that public reporting on water use will improve industry performance and encourage companies to recycle more water in their operations,” said Veronique Giry, vice president of Industry Operations.

“An important next step for us is to start comparing how companies in Alberta use water to gain a better  understanding of the gap between the amount of water they are allocated and the amount they use and where appropriate to try and reduce that gap,” said Giry. “We’ll use this data to hold companies accountable, by reviewing their water applications with greater scrutiny and measuring them against their peers.”

The Alberta Energy Industry Water Use Report is the second report to be released under the AER’s industry performance program, which launched last year to measure, evaluate, and report on energy development activities that the AER regulates, and to help improve operator performance.

The Alberta Energy Regulator ensures the safe, efficient, orderly, and environmentally responsible development of hydrocarbon resources over their entire life cycle. This includes allocating and conserving water resources, managing public lands, and protecting the environment while providing economic benefits for all Albertans.


The Alberta Energy Regulator continues to report on industry performance with the release of a new water report issued today. Alberta's energy industry used 2.2 per cent of all nonsaline water allocated in Alberta across all industries, with oil sands mining the largest water user, while enhanced oil recovery and in situ oil sands projects recycled the most water across the industry last year—recycling 90 per cent of all water used.

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