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Implementing the Water Conservation Policy for Upstream Oil and Gas Operations

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Release Date: December 11, 2020


On December 1, 2020, Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) released the Water Conservation Policy for Upstream Oil and Gas Operations (WCP), replacing the Water Conservation and Allocation Policy for Oilfield Injection (2006). The WCP, which provides direction on water use, applies to the following energy subsectors:

  1. oil sands thermal in situ operations,
  2. enhanced oil recovery and cold bitumen enhanced recovery operations,
  3. multistage hydraulic fracturing in horizontal wells, and
  4. oil sands mining operations.

The WCP emphasizes the use of alternative water sources, including alternative nonsaline water (e.g., industrial wastewater, water from tailings ponds), over high-quality nonsaline water (e.g., lake or river water). This will reduce reliance on high-quality nonsaline water now and into the future.

We are currently developing the guidance document to implement the WCP for the first three subsectors listed above, which we expect to release in early 2021. Until then, applicants for Water Act licences in these subsectors should use the AEP’s Water Conservation and Allocation Guideline for Oilfield Injection (2006).

No changes are planned for oil sands mining operations. Nonsaline water allocation for oil sands mining will continue to follow the Surface Water Quantity Management Framework for the Lower Athabasca River and the Tailings Management Framework for the Mineable Athabasca Oil Sands.

The new policy also does not affect our application process. Companies are to continue to use the Application for Water Act Licences form and submit the completed form to @email.

For questions about the WCP, contact Steve Wallace at AEP by email to @email.

For WCP-related questions on water licence applications, email @email.