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Suncor believes that water is a shared and precious resource that must be managed wisely using a balanced, sustainable approach to integrated water management. This holistic approach includes optimizing water withdrawal practices, reuse of water already in our system, and the return of water to the watershed. We continue to invest in research and development to increase information, expertise, technological innovations and practices in an effort to sustainably manage water and reduce overall environmental impacts.
We use four principles to guide our integrated water management approach:
- Shared value of water: Water is a valuable natural resource with environmental, social and economic value. All water use must be managed wisely. Responsible energy development means ensuring industry’s water use does not compromise the availability of clean, safe and plentiful supply of this important resource for current and future generations. We advocate and support policy development that strives to balance social, environmental and economic considerations.
- Watershed management: Watershed management should be conducted on a regional scale, considering all users and the overall cumulative impact. We believe in the importance of working collaboratively with peers, government and environmental groups as well as affected Aboriginal communities through transparent, informed discussions about water stewardship in the Athabasca watershed.
- Reduce-Reuse-Return: A truly sustainable integrated water management approach must simultaneously balance, reduce-reuse and return:
- Reduce: A responsible water footprint means reducing water use must be balanced against the understanding of the overall net environmental effects.
- Reuse: Reusing water to improve efficiency while considering net effects related to safety, reliability, energy use or future reclamation successes.
- Return: A critical component of an integrated water management approach is the ability to safely return water to the watershed. Water Return is required to manage on-site water quantity and quality and is essential to minimize other environmental impacts (i.e. land disturbance, energy intensity/GHG emissions, waste generation).
- Integrated options analysis: This analysis recognizes the integration of water management principles with site-specific conditions. Sustainable water management for an individual facility must include the principles of reduce, reuse, and return of water, recognizing that for each facility this will be unique based on a number of factors. All of these factors will lead to the development of options or opportunities in all three areas of water management (reduce-reuse-return).
Collaboration on regional water stewardship
As the oil sands industry grows, we recognize the need to increasingly focus on the cumulative demands development places on regional water resources over the long term. Understanding that water impacts and challenges extend well beyond our own plant gates, we are also working closely with fellow oil sands operators, regulators and other stakeholders to move beyond just water management to water stewardship in the Athabasca River watershed.
Beginning in 2009, we’ve worked as part of the Oil Sands Leadership Initiative, now Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), to advance a regional understanding of water. Suncor has either led or collaborated on projects that target three critical areas:
- understanding the watershed (users, flow, water quality and regional stakeholders) now and in the future
- understanding water use on our operational site and opportunities to reduce, reuse and return water in the watershed
- continuing to develop strong environmental monitoring in the watershed
Our regional collaborative work is key to ensure we find the right balance for all water users and the environment.
Through COSIA, Suncor and other member companies have executed more than 17 projects and contributed more than 180 technologies on these three critical areas of water stewardship.
Read more about our water management strategies
Technology and innovation in water treatment
As part of COSIA, we are working with industry partners to develop the Water Technology Development Centre (WTDC), which will advance new water treatment and recycling technologies for oil sands development. The $165 million WTDC is scheduled to be open in 2019 and will be attached to our Firebag in situ operations, allowing researchers to test new technologies on ‘live’ process fluids.
The WTDC will also allow participating companies to test more technologies than could be evaluated by each company individually while collaboratively managing the risks and costs of technology development. It will shorten the time required to field test technologies and move them to commercial application. Other targeted benefits include:
- reducing the cost of water recycling
- increasing steam and bitumen production
- improving the reliability of water recycling technology
- reducing water use and energy efficiency
- developing and applying improved technologies and practices for managing water treatment byproducts