Postmedia: Projects focus on water stewardship

via: Projects focus on water stewardship, CAPP, Postmedia, Feb. 28, 2013

When energy producer Encana was seeking water management strategies for its Two Island Lake hydraulic fracturing operations in British Columbia’s Horn River Basin, the primary goal was to have the least-possible impact on surface water.

“We were fortunate to identify the Debolt formation, a deep, non-potable aquifer containing saline water, unsuitable for human or agricultural use,” says Mike Forgo, Encana’s Vice-President of Business Services & Stakeholder Relations. “This type of formation is not available in many areas of B.C.”

The discovery led to a project with peer company Apache to design and build the Debolt Water Treatment Plant and develop the formation as a water source reservoir – the first of its kind in Canada.

It took a great deal of innovation and collaboration to tap this unique resource, but the effort brought a significant payoff. Some 98 per cent of water needed for both companies’ operations at Two Island Lake now comes from this saline source.

Combined with systems that allow for full recovery and re-use of fracturing fluids, the result is a development with minimal draw on surface water and a low environmental footprint.

The strategy that led to the Debolt find is helping to lower surface water use in other areas of the province. In the Montney play in northeastern B.C., Encana is currently developing a water-handling and distribution hub using subsurface water sources.

“We understand that unconventional resource development is water-intensive,” Mr. Forgo says. “Encana, and the oil and gas industry, is taking proactive steps to address concerns and produce in as responsible a manner as possible.”


In keeping with its global objective, Shell Canada is constantly developing new technologies and processes to conserve water in all of its operations, and it is working with communities to address challenges and concerns.

When the company began operations west of Dawson Creek, B.C., the local community raised two issues: water use and truck traffic. Shell listened to the concerns of citizens and developed a water management strategy which focuses on recycling as well as a partnership with the City of Dawson Creek for a reclaimed water facility. This facility processes sewage waste water from the community that was formerly released into Dawson Creek.

A 48-kilometre pipeline from the plant transports the treated water to Shell’s operations in the Groundbirch gas field, where it is combined with recycled production water and used in the hydraulic fracturing process. The result is the virtual elimination of the use of surface water.

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ESTJ: Land and Water Impacts of Oil Sands Production in Alberta

Land and Water Impacts of Oil Sands Production in Alberta

Sarah M. Jordaan
Energy Technology Innovation Policy Research Group, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, 20 Oxford Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, United States IN Environ. Sci. Technol., 2012, 46 (7), pp 3611–3617
Publication Date (Web): February 24, 2012


Expansion of oil sands development results not only in the release of greenhouse gas emissions, but also impacts land and water resources. Though less discussed internationally due to to their inherently local nature, land and water impacts can be severe. Research in key areas is needed to manage oil sands operations effectively; including improved monitoring of ground and surface water quality. The resulting information gap means that such impacts are not well understood. Improved analyses of oil sands products are required that compare land and water use with other transportation fuel pathways and use a regional perspective so local effects can be considered and mitigated.

Land and Water Impacts of Oil Sands Technologies

1 How Different Are the Impacts of Oil Sands Extraction Technologies?

Bitumen is extracted from the oil sands using two technologies, surface mining or in situ recovery, each of which have different land and water impacts. Surface mining techniques remove shallow depth oil sand deposits by truck and shovel and extract the bitumen with the Clarke hot water extraction process by mixing the oil sand with water warmed using natural gas.(11) In situ technology is predominantly used for extracting deeper deposits. Thermal in situ technologies use natural gas to produce steam that is subsequently injected to reduce the viscosity of the bitumen so that it can be pumped to the surface using production wells. It is understood that oil sands technologies produce 10–20% more greenhouse gases than the average conventional fuel when calculating life cycle emissions from well to wheel,(4) yet much less emphasis has been placed on quantifying water and land impacts.

Land use of surface mining is comprised largely of polygonal features (mine sites, overburden storage, tailing ponds, and end pit lakes). In situ development has a different footprint, mostly defined by linear features that extend across the lease area (networks of seismic lines, access roads, pipelines and well sites).(12, 14)As of 2009, only 600 km2 of land were disturbed by surface mining, accounting for 0.3% of the area where oil sands resources are present, or less than 0.1% of the total land area of Alberta. Eighty percent of the resource is currently expected to be extracted using in situ technologies, affecting approximately 136 000 km2 (97% of the total oil sands area).(13) While natural gas is used in surface mining, in situ recovery can use on the order of four times more than surface mining.(11) The cumulative footprint of the future oil sands operations may extend over approximately the 140 000 km2 during the course of the development, comprising of 20% of Alberta, and even more if the upstream footprint from the infrastructure required for natural gas production is included.(14)

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StatCan: Industrial Water Use, 2009

Statistics Canada, 5 March 2012

The three industry groups covered by the Industrial Water Survey had a total water intake of 32.3 billion cubic metres in 2009.

Thermal-electric power producers accounted for 81.6% of this intake, while manufacturers withdrew 16.9%, and mines, 1.5%.

Among manufacturers, five industries accounted for over 95% of the water intake in 2009: paper, primary metal, petroleum and coal, food, and chemical.

The three main industry groups discharged 31.3 billion cubic metres in wastewater in 2009. Thermal-electric power producers accounted for just over 82.4% of the total, manufacturing industries almost 15.6%, and mining industries, 2.0%.

These same industries recycled more than 8.6 billion cubic metres of water. The thermal-electric power producers accounted for about 48.8% of this total, manufacturing industries about 33.2%, and mining industries the remaining 17.9%.

The three groups had total water costs of $1.7 billion.

Note: The 2009 Industrial Water Survey was conducted under the umbrella of the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators project, a joint initiative of Statistics Canada, Environment Canada and Health Canada.

The survey gathered information on the intake and discharge of water by three groups of industries: manufacturing, mining and thermal-electric generating industries. It collected information on sources of water, purposes for which the water was used, whether water was re-circulated or re-used, where the water was discharged and what treatments were used. It also collected information on water acquisition costs, treatment costs and operating and maintenance expenses related to water intake and discharge.

StatCan’s free download of Industrial Water Use, 2009 published March 2012.

Available without charge in CANSIM: tables 153-0047 to 153-0051 and 153-0067 to 153-0097.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 5120.

CCPA: BC’s climate goals, hydro and water resources at risk as shale gas fracking industry expands

via: @ecojustice_ca & Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives  Nov. 16, 2011

(Vancouver) A new study concludes that BC’s ballooning shale gas industry is the natural gas equivalent of Alberta’s tar sands, placing the province’s water and hydro resource at risk as well as jeopardizing climate change policies.

Despite industry and government assertions that natural gas from shale rock is a “green” alternative to other fossil fuels, the study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Wilderness Committee finds the opposite, and lays much of the blame on the controversial gas extraction technology known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Fracking involves forcing massive amounts of water, chemicals and sand deep into shale rock formations, creating fractures in the rock that release the gas.

“If the shale gas industry expands as projected,” says study author and CCPA resource policy analyst Ben Parfitt, “shale gas companies will need two to three times the amount of power that the proposed Site C dam would provide. In other words, large amounts of publicly owned clean water and hydro power will have to be found to produce more and more dirty fossil fuel. I don’t think British Columbians are comfortable with that.”

The study, Fracking Up Our Water, Hydro Power and Climate: BC’s Reckless Pursuit of Shale Gas, notes many troubling outcomes of escalating shale gas production:

A potential doubling of industry greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, as fracking activities escalate. If BC is to meet its legislated targets for greenhouse gas reduction, every other sector of the provincial economy will have to cut their emissions in half.
The BC government giving shale gas companies access to public water supplies for 20 years, with little or no public consultation despite the massive amounts of water used (up to 600 Olympic swimming pools per gas well pad).
Potential increases in shale gas piped to Alberta, where it already helps to fuel operations at the tar sands.
The study further notes that environmental and climatic stresses associated with the industry will increase with new developments like the recently approved liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal at Kitimat.

“It’s time to curb this industry before it’s too late for our climate, our water and our hydroelectric resources,” says Tria Donaldson, Pacific Coast Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee.

 “We want firm no-go zones established where industry activities are restricted and we want a moratorium on fracking in undeveloped watersheds, pending full surface water and groundwater studies.”

The report makes numerous recommendations, including:

A cap on annual shale gas production.
An end to all government subsidies of the natural gas industry.
A requirement that the province explain how BC will meet its legislatively mandated greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets while simultaneously supporting the shale gas industry.
Increased water prices for industry, to encourage innovation and conservation (currently companies pay nothing for the water they use, or nominal charges of just $2.75 for each Olympic swimming pool of water).
A requirement that the industry pay full cost for the electricity it uses.

“We need to manage this industry for wind-down, not wind-up, and ensure that while the industry is operating the public gets a fair return,” Parfitt says.

For more information or interviews, contact Sarah Leavitt, 604-801-5121, x233 or

This study is part of the Climate Justice Project, a partnership between the CCPA-BC and UBC, funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, with additional funding from Mountain Equipment Coop.

EPA announces schedule to develop standards for wastewater produced by natural gas and coalbed methane extraction

Via: Environmental Expert

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing a schedule to develop standards for wastewater discharges produced by natural gas extraction from underground coalbed and shale formations. No comprehensive set of national standards exists at this time for the disposal of wastewater discharged from natural gas extraction activities, and over the coming months EPA will begin the process of developing a proposed standard with the input of stakeholders – including industry and public health groups. Today’s announcement is in line with the priorities identified in the president’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, and is consistent with the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board recommendations on steps to support the safe development of natural gas resources.

‘The president has made clear that natural gas has a central role to play in our energy economy. That is why we are taking steps — in coordination with our federal partners and informed by the input of industry experts, states and public health organizations — to make sure the needs of our energy future are met safely and responsibly,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. ‘We can protect the health of American families and communities at the same time we ensure access to all of the important resources that make up our energy economy. The American people expect and deserve nothing less.’

Recent technology and operational improvements in extracting natural gas resources, particularly shale gas, have increased gas drilling activities across the country. Production from shale formations has grown from a negligible amount just a few years ago to almost 15 percent of total U.S. natural gas production and this share is expected to triple in the coming decades. The sharp rise in domestic production has improved U.S. energy security and created jobs, and as with any resource the administration is committed to ensuring that we continue to leverage these resources safely and responsibly, including understanding any potential impact on water resources.

Shale Gas Standards:
Currently, wastewater associated with shale gas extraction is prohibited from being directly discharged to waterways and other waters of the U.S. While some of the wastewater from shale gas extraction is reused or re-injected, a significant amount still requires disposal. As a result, some shale gas wastewater is transported to treatment plants, many of which are not properly equipped to treat this type of wastewater. EPA will consider standards based on demonstrated, economically achievable technologies, for shale gas wastewater that must be met before going to a treatment facility.

Coalbed Methane Standards:
Wastewater associated with coalbed methane extraction is not currently subject to national standards for being directly discharged into waterways and for pre-treatment standards. Its regulation is left to individual states. For coalbed methane, EPA will be considering uniform national standards based on economically achievable technologies.

Information reviewed by EPA, including state supplied wastewater sampling data, have documented elevated levels of pollutants entering surface waters as a result of inadequate treatment at facilities. To ensure that these wastewaters receive proper treatment and can be properly handled by treatment plants, EPA will gather data, consult with stakeholders, including ongoing consultation with industry, and solicit public comment on a proposed rule for coalbed methane in 2013 and a proposed rule for shale gas in 2014.

The schedule for coalbed methane is shorter because EPA has already gathered extensive data and information in this area, EPA will take the additional time to gather comparable data on shale gas. In particular, EPA will be looking at the potential for cost-effective steps for pretreatment of this wastewater based on practices and technologies that are already available and being deployed or tested by industry to reduce pollutants in these discharges.

This announcement is part of the effluent guidelines program, which sets national standards for industrial wastewater discharges based on best available technologies that are economically achievable. EPA is required to publish a biennial outline of all industrial wastewater discharge rulemakings underway. EPA has issued national technology-based regulations for 57 industries since 1972. These regulations have prevented the discharge of more than 1.2 billion pounds of toxic pollutants each year into US waters.

More information:

CTV: ‘Fracking’ fluid pitch stirs Great Lakes pollution fears

Clean water advocates worry that pollutants could stream into the Great Lakes if a proposal to treat chemical wastewater at a New York state sewage plant is approved.

The Niagara Falls Water Board (NFWB) is reviewing a plan to treat ‘fracking’ water — fluid waste from a gas extraction procedure — at a facility sitting on the Niagara River, which joins up with Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

Early drafts of the plan propose trucking the liquid waste to the plant to be treated before returning it to wells for reuse, though some oil and gas companies have discharged the fluid into waterways, according to a Buffalo News report.

Environmentalists fear a spill or the possibility of the treated fluid being released back into a main water supply could threaten drinking water in the area and nearby cities such as Buffalo and Toronto.

“If discharged into waterways, the wastewater flowback puts the drinking water of communities in the region at risk,” Council of Canadians member Emma Sui wrote in an open letter to the NFWB.

The Great Lakes hold 95 per cent of North America’s freshwater and provide drinking water to 40 million people in surrounding communities, according to the social justice group.

NFWB spokesperson Earl Wells wouldn’t confirm details on the agency’s potential contingency plans for the discharging the wastewater, saying the proposal review is still in the early stages.

“One could make the leap that if you’re going to treat it you’re going to discharge it,” he told “But we’re not even at the discussion point about discharging. The alternative could be just recycling the water.”

Recycling the wastewater, said Wells, would mean companies truck the fluid to the treatment plant and then take it back to reuse in the gas extraction process.

Wells added that the entire project will need to be rubber-stamped by New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

“All we have said is we’re looking at the potential possibility of treating wastewater from the drilling process,” he said in a phone interview from Niagara Falls, NY.

The chemical cocktail

Fracking fluid is a byproduct of hydro-fracking, a controversial drilling method used to exploit deposits of shale gas. The so-called cleaner fossil fuel is found inside densely-packed rock beds around the globe.

During the procedure, a high-pressure cocktail of water, sand and chemicals is pumped deep underground with the intention of blasting the rock open and freeing the gas within.

Chemicals such as methanol, ethylene glycol and sodium hydroxide are listed as commonly used hydro-fracking substances in a report prepared for the United States’ House of Representatives last April.

Environmentalists also take issue with the hydro-fracking process itself, worried that natural gas and wastewater will contaminate groundwater during extraction.

Like Quebec, New York state currently has a drilling moratorium in place on the state’s shale gas deposits.

Wells said he wouldn’t address environmental concerns, but pointed out that treating fracking fluid in Niagara Falls, N.Y. could be an economic boon to the area. (this comment concerns me the most. What about after the money is spent and the oil is gone? – M)

“It’s a poor city. It continues to see residents leave and revenue leave,” he said. “The cost of maintaining the water and the wastewater continue to put a burden on the ratepayers. It could generate jobs, mitigate rates.”  (It could. Lots of things ::could:: happen. – M)

Old fracking fluid from shale gas operations is typically stored in manmade lagoons with thick liners or reused by oil and gas companies. (It can also potentially contain NORM, or naturally occuring radioactive material which get carried by produced water (fracking fluid) to the surface. The most hazardous elements found in NORM are Radium 226, 228 and Radon 222 and daughter products from these radionuclides. The elements are referred to as “bone seekers” which when inside the body migrate to the bone tissue and concentrate. This exposure can cause bone cancers and other bone abnormalities. -Mickie)

Wells said the NFWB’s treatment plant is underutilized and one of only two facilities in New York State equipped to treat the type of contaminants found in fracking fluid.

But it may be costly and difficult to strip the chemicals from fracking fluid, warns a University of Windsor geology professor.

“Taking those chemicals from the water does not sound like an easy thing to me,” Frank Simpson told “This is an amazing cocktail of substances not found in the natural environment.”

While Simpson said the vast majority of fracking fluid is made up of water, he said the chemicals in fracking fluid shouldn’t be overlooked.

Oil and gas operators in Canada aren’t required to disclose the chemicals used in hydro-fracking, according to an analyst from the David Suzuki Foundation.

Ingredients in fracking fluid differ from operation to operation (proprietary secret? from Environment Canada? What’s wrong with this picture here? – Mickie) but remain a major concern, said Simpson.

“If you took each one of those ingredients and did a web search you’d find links to undesirable human conditions,” said Simpson. “They’re bad for people if ingested in certain amounts.”

If the NFWB does decide to move forward with plans to treat fracking fluid, Simpson advises the group to tread carefully.

This fluid is made up of artificial substances created by people to solve problems like corrosion and substance build-up,” he said. “It’s not the type of thing you want to come into contact with.”

CD Howe: Threats to Groundwater Supplies in Canada Require Coordinated Response

Threats to Groundwater Supplies in Canada Require Coordinated Response: C.D. Howe Institute

TORONTO, Feb. 10 /CNW/

– Better oversight of Canada’s groundwater resources is required in the face of numerous challenges, according to a study released today by the C.D. Howe Institute.

In ” Protecting Groundwater: The Invisible and Vital Resource, ” James Bruce, recently chair of the Council of Canadian Academies Expert Panel on Groundwater, assesses present and emerging threats and makes recommendations for better groundwater management in Canada.
Challenges for groundwater management, the author says, include energy issues, such as the uncertain impact of shale gas “fracking,” slow recharge rates of aquifers, agricultural intensification, and contamination. Canada has yet to experience large-scale over-exploitation of groundwater resources and its groundwater remains of good quality.

Bruce says the time is right, however, for establishing the legal, regulatory and management systems, along with the necessary monitoring provisions, to overcome the threats to groundwater.

Nearly 10 million Canadians, including about 80 percent of the rural population and many small- to medium-sized municipalities, rely on groundwater for their everyday needs. However, Canadians living in large cities and most policymakers tend to ignore groundwater and its management. This asymmetry of interests has resulted in fragmented knowledge of groundwater locations, their quantity, quality, and how groundwater supplies are changing over time in Canada.

Bruce says an effective groundwater management strategy would adhere to five major principles for sustainability. They are: protection from depletion; protection from contamination; ecosystem viability; allocation to maximize groundwater’s contribution to social and economic well-being; and the application of good governance.

Given the challenges that lie ahead, the author concludes, meaningful cooperation by three levels of government, as well as prices that better match the costs of delivering water and wastewater services, and an expansion in data collection efforts are required to sustainably manage Canada’s groundwater.

For the study go to:

For further information:
James P. Bruce, Former Chair, Council of
Canadian Academies Expert Panel on
Colin Busby, Senior Policy Analyst,

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