Industry Working Together To Reduce Fresh Water Use

Corporate Responsibility

Industry Working Together To Reduce Fresh Water Use

A Water Technology Development Centre (WTDC) is one of the joint industry projects being developed by members of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance's (COSIA) Water Environmental Priority Area (EPA). The facility will advance new water treatment and recycling technologies for in situ oil sands development, and will allow researchers to test new technologies on ‘live’ process fluids in real world conditions without affecting production.

About 80% of Alberta’s oil sands reserves can only be recovered through in situ extraction technology. In situ operations use water to produce high-temperature steam that is injected into the reservoir to heat the bitumen. As the warm bitumen is moved to the surface, the steam cools turning back into water, which is brought to the surface along with the bitumen. The water is separated from the bitumen and channeled through complex water treatment facilities to remove impurities. The treated water is recycled and re-used in the process.

In situ operators are looking for ways to reduce the high cost of water treatment, improve the reliability of recycling technology and reduce their water footprint.

The WTDC will shorten the time required to field test water treatment and recycling technologies and move them to commercial application. Participating companies will be able to test more technologies than could be evaluated by each company individually while collaboratively managing the risks and costs of technology development.

Read more about industry collaboration projects.


The Water Technology Development Centre is expected to begin construction in 2015, attached to Suncor’s Firebag in situ operations and become operational in 2017. The remaining project members include Canadian Natural, Devon, Husky and Nexen Energy.