Resource-Intensive Growth

Water, natural gas consumption set to escalate alongside oilsands expansion

The consumption of natural gas and water to extract bitumen in situ is set to rise rapidly along with oilsands output over the next two decades. As of 2012, the province had already approved over five million barrels of oilsands production per day using current technologies, while industry has announced or disclosed plans to produce more than nine million barrels of bitumen per day.

According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ (CAPP) 2013 Crude Oil Forecast, Markets and Transportation report, oilsands production will almost triple from 1.8 million barrels per day in 2012 to 5.2 million barrels per day by 2030.
CAPP’s projection sees an ever-growing reliance on in situ production compared to oilsands mining. Of the 1.8 million barrels per day produced in 2012, one million barrels per day were from in situ operations. By 2030, in situ production is forecast at 3.5 million barrels per day, compared to 1.7 million barrels per day from mining.

While less freshwater-intensive than mining, in situ production’s water consumption is expected to grow from 452,000 barrels per day in 2012 to one million per day in 2022 and 1.27 million per day for all projects approved as of November 2012, according to the Pembina Institute. Brackish water use will swell from 391,000 to 868,000 and 1.1 million, respectively.

The single highest operating cost for in situ thermal projects is the cost of natural gas, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI). For steam assisted gravity drainage projects, dry steam to oil ratios typically range from 2.0 to 2.5, while for cyclic steam stimulation, wet steam to oil ratios are between 3.0 to 3.5, it states.

If in situ production technology remains largely as it is today, by 2045 natural gas requirements will multiply by two to three times current levels to between 2,749 and 3,586 million cubic feet per day in CERI’s high and low case scenarios. However, in a March 2012 report, Canadian Oil Sands Supply Costs and Development Projects (2011-2045), CERI estimates that due to aggressive shale gas production growth in the United States, and anticipated in Canada, meeting the oilsands industry’s future demand for natural gas should not be a concern.

“It would be expected that Canada and the U.S. could be engaged in an energy exchange—Canadian oil for U.S. natural gas—that further enhances the trade relationship between the two countries,” it states. “Also, the prospects for technology switching and efficiency improvements are substantial and will likely put downward pressure on the industry’s natural gas requirements.”

Refined Tastes

Technology for proposed B.C. refinery has potential to significantly reduce the carbon footprint

One doesn’t have to look hard to find evidence that Canada’s oilsands are under pressure to reduce their carbon footprint—opponents of bitumen production are doing everything from protesting pipelines to chaining themselves to the White House fence. Critics note that high amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and waste per unit of production make it “dirty oil.”

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Surfactant Solution

Oilsands operators are hoping additives will help boost thermal in situ recovery rates

There’s a new kid on the block as the operators of thermal oilsands projects look for new ways to wrest more bitumen out of their reservoirs.

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Settling The Sediment Problem

A better polymer could crack the tailings ponds’ fine solids–settling challenge

While the massive oilsands tailings ponds in the Athabasca oilsands appear to have become a lightning rod for the opposition to oilsands 
development, the industry, armed with new techn­­olo­gies, is working to change that.

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Mud By Any Other Name

Homegrown research on nanoparticles could change the future of drilling fluids

In western Canada’s oilpatch, when people hear the term “advanced technology,” they often think of downhole telemetry, wireless communications, engineering instruments or global pos­itioning systems.

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