About 80 per cent of Alberta’s oil sands reserves are buried deep beneath the earth’s surface and can only be recovered through in-situ, or ‘in place’, extraction. In-situ operations use water to produce high-temperature steam that is injected into the reservoir to melt the bitumen. The water used in this process can be recycled and used to produce steam many times over, but oil sands operators are looking for ways to improve the recycling technology and reduce their water footprint.
The Water Technology Development Centre will be attached to an operating in-situ facility, allowing them to mimic real world conditions. In this way they’ll be able to run tests on fluids with the same characteristics, elevated temperatures and pressures that occur at a real commercial operation.
As a dedicated testing facility, the Water Technology Development Centre will allow operators to test drive more technologies, and to test those technologies faster than ever before. This will speed up the development and implementation of new water treatment technologies and will shorten the current eight-year timeframe required to field test technologies before they can be used in commercial applications.