Water management

Managing water responsibly is at the heart of this EPA’s work. It’s all about achieving a balance between reduced water use and increased recycling rates with an eye on the potential impacts to water quality and GHG emissions.

Water Aspirations

We aspire to produce energy with no adverse impact on water.

Achieving this goal means becoming world leaders in water management. And we’re well on our way with more than 25 years of research into innovative and sustainable solutions.

Water research annual report

November 2022

Catch up on some of the highlights of our recent progress in water.

Water Priorities

Our water management efforts are focused on developing innovative solutions to how water is managed at in situ and oil sands mining operations.

Reduce freshwater-use intensity

Improve water-treatment processes

Improve steam-generation efficiency

What we’re doing

Mining and in situ operations use water in different ways. As a consequence, we’re tailoring our work to address these areas more effectively.

Effective water management

In situ operations are focused on central processing facilities with a goal of reducing water use and increasing recycling rates. Mining operations build on 25 years of research to reclaim mine sites, and understand the natural environment and impact we have locally and regionally.

Efficient steam generation

Steam plays an important role at in situ operations. We’re supporting technologies that generate steam more efficiently, which means using less water and less natural gas. These new developments also produce less byproduct that needs to be treated or disposed of.

Water treatment

We’re helping to advance an array of water treatments for process water from mining operations. These treatments remove harmful compounds that may be harmful to aquatic life. Our goal is to accelerate the development and commercialization of these treatments.

Athabasca River watershed

Ongoing research and monitoring ensures the safety of the Athabasca River watershed. This includes meeting all environmental and regulatory requirements as well as understanding and managing the cumulative effects on the watershed.

Water innovation opportunities

We want to hear from anyone with an idea—academics, researchers, inventors, entrepreneurs—that can help us improve water management in the oil sands. Explore the current innovation opportunities to see where you can contribute.

Learn more about innovation opportunities

Priority Area

Challenge Tags Details
Low Energy Treatment Technologies Water

New or improved low-energy technologies that can effectively treat OSPW or highly saline depressurization water for return to the Athabasca River. The technology should be economical and require minimal energy and maintenance for long term operation. Passive or semi-passive treatment systems that detoxify OSPW have several advantages over active treatment systems like ozonation including lower net environment effect, lower costs and the ability to deploy during the active mining and reclamation phases of mine life.

Download Challenge Brief
Alternative Silica Removal Technologies Water

Develop new technologies to remove silica from produced water that also improve the operational performance (lower costs, improved reliability) and net environmental effects (lower GHG emission intensity, improved waste management) of oil sands in situ operations.

Download Challenge Brief
Online Water Hardness Analyzers Water

Improve in situ process monitoring through the collaborative improvement/development online analyzers, and analytical techniques/best practices, and in situ laboratory analytical methods, with the goal of improving the stability, utilization of in situ produced water treatment facilities.

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Technologies that Improve Existing Once Through Steam Generation Performance Water

Improve the design/operation of existing Once Through Steam Generators (OTSGs) to generate more injection steam and/or increase steam generator operating uptime, while improving water recycle, reducing disposal and reducing energy use/GHG intensity.

Download Challenge Brief