Talk to any fitness-tracker user and they’ll admit they enjoy seeing how their step count compares with those of family, friends, and work colleagues. Let’s face it, everyone strives to be better when they know how they compare against others, so why would energy companies feel any different when it comes to how much water they use?
The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) is betting that oil sands companies will strive to use water more efficiently when they see how they compare amongst their peers in an updated Alberta Energy Industry Water Use Report.
“Publicly reporting on water use holds companies more accountable for their actions,” says Aruna Bissonauth, manager of industry performance -mining at the AER. “While companies are using far less water than what they’re allocated, making this data available to the public encourages companies to measure themselves against their peers and motivates them to use water more efficiently.”
Here are five things to know about the report:
- Show me the data.
The report has been updated and now includes company data for oil sands mining and in situ. Future updates to the report will include company data for hydraulic fracturing and enhanced oil recovery.
- One is not like the other.
Evaluating water-use performance involves more than examining which company uses the least amount and which company recycles the most. It’s also important to look at how each company operates (i.e., mining or in situ), and at the size and age of their projects, because each factor affects their water use.
- Less is more.
Over time and through new technologies and innovation, companies have reduced the amount of water they need. In 2016, about 80 per cent of water used for oil sands mining was recycled from tailings ponds, while in situ recycled 86 per cent by separating and treating water from producing wells.
- A drop in the bucket.
While recycling plays a large role in the industry, companies can also find ways to use less water by improving their operations over time, as we noted in our 2017 industry water-use report.
- Performance matters.
The report is part of our industry performance program, which measures, evaluates, and reports on energy development activities we regulate. Check out our backgrounder to learn more about how we measure water-use performance.