In anticipation of the upcoming Managing Water Resources in Oil Sands In Situ Production conference in Calgary, January 26-27, we spoke with Cal Watson, Devon Canada’s general manager of thermal heavy oil, about some of the company’s water practices.
Water Canada: The Devon Energy website says that the company has made a commitment to the principles of water conservation and reuse “where feasible.” Can you give me a few examples of where conservation and/or reuse occurs on Devon’s sites? In which instances does the company go beyond the provincial government’s requirements? In what instances is conservation/reuse NOT feasible?
Cal Watson: When it comes to water management, Devon is an award-winning industry leader. We have a corporate Fresh Water Management & Usage Policy which guides our operational practices. The policy includes direction on tracking and reporting, conservation and protection, and education.
At our Jackfish (in-situ oil sands) steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) facility, Devon does not use any fresh water for steaming operations. It was the first commercial SAGD facility to use only saline water in its steaming operations, which comes from a deep well located near the plant. The extremely highs alt content of this water means that it can’t be used for any other purpose including irrigation and human consumption. In fact, before it can even be used in our steam generators, it goes through an extensive water treatment process and is recycled up to nine times.
Another example of innovation in water use comes from our Fairview District’s Dunvegan play in northwest Alberta. Here, water is used for fracking gas wells. The team working on the project wanted to reduce the amount of fresh water used and tested new frac technology using produced water and gel. The Dunvegan play was near a Devon-owned natural gas plant that processes produced water which historically is disposed of underground.
By testing a new chemical technology, the team was able to reduce Devon’s fresh water usage by 3,000m3, enough to sustain the nearby Town of Fairview for a full month. As a result of the team’s innovative approach and determination, Devon was the first company in Alberta to take this chemical application from the lab to a commercial site.
What about the water education component—can you provide some examples of Devon’s work in communities? Is there any special initiative that stands out?
Water management is a shared responsibility. It’s important for the general public to have a greater understanding of the role of individuals, and we have engaged multiple not-for-profit organizations to educate young people about their role in the management of this important resource.
Devon partnered with the SEEDS Foundation to develop a provincial Water Challenge. The program teaches elementary-aged children about water as a resource, and presents action items that can implement at home.
In addition, the company was the first corporate sponsor of Trout Unlimited’s Yellowfish Road Program, which teaches participants about storm-water systems and how they can better steward the water that goes down the drain, and ultimately ends up back in the water cycle.
We also currently support other water-focused community initiatives including Waterlution, InsideEducation, Energy in Action and Ducks Unlimited.
Experience with these programs has demonstrated that youth are incredibly responsive to action-oriented programs that empower them to make a difference. In many cases, they shape household habits and educate their parents.