I wrote recently about Andy Swiger’s remarks regarding ExxonMobil’s work to responsibly develop the Canadian oil sands. In his speech, Andy described some of the technological innovations that will reduce emissions at our new Kearl project.
Andy also highlighted another environmental success story from the oil sands, one that centers on conserving water.
Extracting bitumen from the oil sands requires water to produce steam. For years the industry has relied on both groundwater and surface water sources.
From the start, we have looked for ways to do more with less.
So ExxonMobil’s long-term investments and research with our Imperial Oil affiliate have led to state-of-the-art water recycling techniques that have dramatically reduced the water requirements for oil sands production.
Technologies developed in the late 1970s have allowed approximately 95 percent of “produced water” (water extracted with oil and gas during production) to be reused for steam generation.
As a result, we have been able to reduce freshwater-use intensity at our Cold Lake facility by almost 90 percent since the project’s inception.
Other conservation initiatives are underway which have the potential to reduce fresh water use at Cold Lake by up to an additional 30 percent from current uses.
Reducing the water used in energy production is good news – and it offers an excellent example of how the energy industry is continuously improving its processes. That has long been a hallmark of our industry, albeit an underappreciated one.
The developments at Kearl and Cold Lake demonstrate this sort of improvement in action, but in truth it has been this way for our industry since Col. Drake struck oil in 1859.
Our industry’s ability to continuously improve and extend the boundaries of technology explains why we are confident in our ability to meet the world’s growing energy challenges while protecting the environment.