Implementing new water technology or initiatives can be challenging for individual in situ oil sands operators, both economically and operationally. The In Situ Water Best Practices Working Group brings companies together to share best practices and adopt and improve technologies that advance operational and environmental performance improvements.
The In Situ Water Best Practices Working Group’s goal is to increase the pace of implementing best practices concerning water-related environmental performance of in situ operations. By sharing knowledge and data openly, participating companies can assess issues and opportunities associated with new technologies or initiatives, and even reduce costs.
Each year, the group identifies common problems faced by the in situ operations of member companies. The companies then work together to assess these issues and find solutions by sharing data and information on how each company manages these issues at their facility/facilities and offering support to each other on how to address these concerns.
By working together, participating member companies have been able to leverage operational experience across the industry to troubleshoot issues immediately; increase steam generation performance; and, create more reliable water plant operations.
In 2016, the In Situ Water Best Practices Working Group focused its efforts on Once Through Steam Generator (OTSG) Fouling Indicators and water treatment Ion Exchange Operations.
OTSG Fouling Indicators: In situ operations generally use steam to produce bitumen. The steam is generated using recycled treated produced water. Due to challenges associated with treating the produced water, the steam generators are prone to fouling. Thermocouples measure the temperature of the OTSG tubes to monitor for increased temperature caused when a layer of insulating scale forms in the tube. Operating at higher tube temperatures impact the reliability and efficiency of the plant. Members of the Working Group shared their company data about thermocouples, such as the preferred thermocouple type, location, installation process and data use, in order to assess the best application of the equipment.
Water Treatment Ion Exchange Operation: Ion Exchange systems are used to remove minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, from the produced water which if not removed would precipitate and form scale in the steam generator. Working Group members shared information about resin performance, resin regeneration performance, and associated equipment operation. The data can be used to develop ion exchange operational best practices.
The working group also organizes annual forums to bring together subject matter experts from participating COSIA member companies to discuss water-related issues and identify potential solutions.
By working together through open collaboration, participating members of the In Situ Water Best Practices Working Group can identify solutions to environmental challenges more quickly and apply operational and /or technology improvements at existing facilities.
Recent examples of company initiatives that were shared within the Best Practices Working Group and improved environmental performance include:
- Increased steam quality to deliver more steam while decreasing greenhouse gas intensity;
- Improved evaporator cleaning to increasing heat-transfer efficiency for reduced energy use;
- Improved slop oil treating to minimize the amount of waste trucked off site; and
- Shared operational lessons learned related to brackish water treatment for improved performance.
The In Situ Water Best Practices Working Group is led by ConocoPhillips Canada with participation from BP, Canadian Natural, Cenovus, Devon, Imperial Oil, Nexen, Shell Canada, Statoil and Suncor Energy.
The annual Best Practices Forum will be held in November 2016 to allow COSIA member-company employees to network and discuss operational issues to improve environmental performance.
The Best Practices working group concept was developed as part of the Oil Sands Leadership Initiative (OSLI) that was the precursor to COSIA. Consistently viewed by COSIA leadership as an integral part of the water portfolio, the Water Best Practices Working Group enables collaboration on current practices and new operational trials to improve the environmental performance of the in situ industry. Topics of interest are selected at the beginning of every calendar year. Information is compiled throughout the year for presentation at the annual fall forum, where learnings are shared between all of the COSIA member companies in the Water EPA.