Calgary, AB - Suncor Energy and five industry partners have announced an estimated $165 million funding commitment to sanction the construction of a dedicated Water Technology Development Centre (WTDC).
The WTDC, to be located at Suncor's Firebag facility, will be used to test water treatment and further develop recycling technologies. The goal of the WTDC is to shorten the timeframe needed to develop and commercialize new technologies, as well as significantly enhance existing technologies.
“The WTDC will help us speed up the pace of innovation, while collaboratively managing the risks and costs of technology development,” said Steve Williams, Suncor president and chief executive officer. “We expect to see strong benefits by conducting different tests simultaneously, using process fluids in real world conditions to pilot new technologies and prove their commercial viability.”
The centre is being pursued as a joint industry project convened under Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), with testing to begin by early 2017. In addition to Suncor, the partner companies include Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Devon Canada Corp., Nexen Energy ULC, Shell Canada Energy and Husky Oil Operations Ltd.
“Moving forward on the WTDC is a demonstration of the tangible progress that COSIA is making by bringing companies together to share knowledge and advance innovation,” says Dan Wicklum, chief executive of COSIA. “The research and testing conducted at the WTDC will allow participating companies to test drive more technologies than could be evaluated by each company alone. This helps to deliver our vision of accelerated environmental performance improvement in Canada's oil sands.”
The structure of the joint industry project will see Suncor construct, own and operate the WTDC while collaborating with the other partners on design, construction and operations -- including specific tests. As a dedicated test facility, the WTDC is expected to overcome the barriers that are common to field testing at commercial production facilities, which are not typically designed to accommodate simultaneous testing of water treatment technologies.
Testing priorities will include minimizing fresh water use and maximizing reliability for steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) production. The facility is expected to provide industry with the opportunity to develop new ways of approaching water treatment and recycling, resulting in positive environmental, social and economic outcomes.
“Water is one of the world's most precious resources, and there is rising concern about how water is used in almost every industry and every country,” said Williams. “By working together on new technologies, we in the oil sands industry hope to deliver results sooner. Our objective is to develop new processes that will allow us to use less water, and we expect that technologies for reducing water usage will also aid in reducing industry costs -- this is truly about a triple bottom line approach.”
Longer term, the WTDC is also expected to help foster deeper technical expertise in the employees who are involved in the project, which is important to Suncor as the company continues to progress its oil sands water management strategy.