We manage water use throughout our operations by exploring innovative opportunities to responsibly reduce, recycle and re-use as much water as is economically feasible. Our water management approach and metrics are detailed in annual submissions to the CDP Water Security Program. In 2018 we received a grade of B-, which exceeds the sector average and reflects our progress on water security through water accounting, governance and stewardship activities.
Water-related issues are managed under the direction of the Executive Health, Safety and Environment Committee, which consists of senior management and is chaired by our Chief Operating Officer.
Our water-related initiatives include:
- Identifying, assessing and managing water risks at a local level.
- Monitoring surface and groundwater, ensuring impacts from operations are negligible or mitigated.
- Recycling produced water.
- Protecting groundwater using established well casing and cementing practices.
- Measuring and publicly disclosing water use.
- Ensuring acceptable domestic water quality standards for employees at remote facilities through our Water Supply Integrity Program.
- Collaboration by internal experts to solve water challenges.
- Contributing to joint industry water management initiatives and water research.
- Participating in multi-operator agreements and water sharing.
- Participating in watershed planning and advisory councils.
Identifying and Managing Water Source Risks
In the areas where we operate, the withdrawal of fresh water is regulated and licensed, to ensure surface and groundwater supplies are not affected negatively.
In considering a water source for our operations, we evaluate risks, including reliability, technical feasibility, net environmental effect, economics, and regulatory and stakeholder concerns. Where risks are identified, mitigation plans are developed and implemented.
We monitor surface water and groundwater to ensure operations are not negatively impacting the environment. To better understand hydrogeological systems in the Northern Alberta oil sands region we participate in the Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) Monitoring Working Group, a joint industry initiative working on technical issues related to the design, implementation and ongoing refinement of the Oil Sands Monitoring Program, and the COSIA Aquifer Working Group.
Enhancing Water Management
Our Water Management Critical Competency Network brings together water expertise from across the company to share technologies and strategies that could be used in operations. This approach improves our ability to identify, manage and address water risks, and to fully explore water opportunities.
We recycle produced water at the Sunrise Energy Project and the Tucker Thermal Project. At Sunrise we use process-affected water from a neighbour’s tailings ponds as a water source, a mutually beneficial agreement that reduces our demand for groundwater and supports Sustainable Development Goal 6.5: implement integrated water resource management. At Tucker we source groundwater that is 40 times more saline than water considered appropriate for household use, using it as an alternative to shallow groundwater or surface water. It is treated extensively before being used in operations.
Husky is a partner in the COSIA Water Technology Development Centre, a lab which will test and advance new water treatment and recycling technologies for oil sands development.
We also participate in the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada’s Water Innovation Planning Committee, where joint industry projects related to water management for hydraulic fracturing are addressed under the Alberta Upstream Petroleum Research Fund.
Water metrics are tracked across all business units using our Environmental Performance Reporting System. By participating in national and international water reporting programs we help drive better measurement and transparency of water use and issues across the industry.
We withdraw water for industrial use from saline and non-saline sources, including non-saline industrial wastewater. We report volumes for facilities we operate, for the time operated within the report year. Our CDP response includes detailed metrics on water recycling and an assessment of our withdrawals from water-stressed areas.
Overall, non-saline water withdrawal in 2018 decreased slightly compared to the previous year, a result of using less water at the Lima Refinery, where there was an equivalent decrease in throughput, and at Sunrise, where we recycled more produced water.
Water Use in Our Operations
Thermal Projects in Alberta
Water volumes at Sunrise and Tucker are reported to the Alberta Energy Regulator and included in its Water Use Performance report.
At Sunrise, produced water is recycled for steam generation, supplemented with water from two sources: process-affected water from a neighbour’s tailings ponds and basal McMurray groundwater which is in contact with bitumen.
In 2018 recycled produced water provided 88% (10.1 million cubic metres) of the total water used for steam generation, an increase from 82% in 2017. The remaining 12% was from the basal McMurray groundwater and process-affected water sources.
At Tucker we use low-quality saline groundwater as a makeup water source, with a total dissolved solid concentration of about 19,000 mg/L. This is about 40 times more saline than water considered acceptable for household use.
In 2018 recycled produced water was 82% (4.3 million cubic metres) of the water used to generate steam. The remaining 18% (0.9 million cubic metres) was from saline groundwater.
Thermal Projects in Saskatchewan
Lloyd thermal projects rely on an available supply of water from the North Saskatchewan River to produce steam for operations.
Water licences for our thermal projects represent approximately 0.3% of the North Saskatchewan River annual average flow. Water withdrawals under these licences were slightly lower in 2018 at 15.9 million cubic metres, compared to 16.2 million cubic metres in 2017. The overall water intensity for Lloyd thermal projects was comparable year over year.
Our detailed risk assessment for this area, conducted in 2017, drew on technical expertise from hydrologists, geomorphologists, engineers, hydrogeologists and geochemists to better define water sourcing risks. The water availability from the North Saskatchewan River was determined to be more than sufficient to meet our current and future needs, through all seasons, while not affecting other users.
This technical review supports Sustainable Development Goal 6.4: ensuring sustainable withdrawals and supply of fresh water. Water management plans for our Lloyd thermal projects are updated considering new water demands and water availability risks.
Potential sources of water for new thermal projects are assessed to ensure we select the most appropriate for each, considering a balance of factors. We are advancing technologies to improve our water efficiency at current and future projects.
In Western Canada our resource plays include the Spirit River formation in the Ansell and Kakwa areas and the Montney formation in the Karr and Wembley areas. These are being developed with hydraulic fracturing technology. We also operate conventional oil assets and the Rainbow Lake gas processing plant.
Water management plans for each area identify and mitigate water risks over the long-term, promoting responsible water stewardship by evaluating re-use opportunities, source alternatives and wastewater disposal solutions. Water risks for each are characterized in the context of reliability, technical feasibility, net environmental effects, regulatory and stakeholder interests and economics. We also assess water management components, including transportation, storage and treatment.
The amount of water required for each resource play depends on the reservoir characteristics, as well as the amount and quality of water produced from the reservoir and the timing of operations. We evaluate water re-use opportunities on these factors and implement where possible. In 2018 we recycled water at 11 of 32 wells that were hydraulically fractured.
At our Wainwright waterflood project we recycle all produced water, reinjecting it into the formation. We use saline groundwater and produced water from other operations in the area as makeup water, reducing non-saline groundwater withdrawals.
We report water withdrawals for the upgrader, refineries and ethanol plants that we operate.
Non-saline water withdrawal for refining decreased from 8.4 million cubic metres in 2017 to eight million cubic metres in 2018, largely due to a proportionate decrease in throughput at the Lima Refinery due to planned maintenance. Overall, the intensity of water used for refining remained approximately the same as 2017.
The approximately eight million cubic metres of non-saline water withdrawn for our refineries was offset by the five million cubic metres returned to the surface hydrologic cycle after being treated in multiple stages, including separating oil from the water and applying biological treatments. This water is tested before being discharged in accordance with regulatory conditions.
At the Lima Refinery, the crude oil flexibility project to increase heavy oil processing capacity includes a water recycling component, which will reduce fresh water withdrawal once operational.
We operate projects in the Atlantic region, offshore Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2018 14.9 million cubic metres of seawater was withdrawn for oil production, offset by 11.8 million cubic metres of cooling water discharged back, with 3.1 million cubic metres used for injection to support production. Seawater withdrawn for marine operations, such as ship engine cooling, is excluded.