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Aerial photo of a tailings pond.

Aerial photo of a tailings pond

At our Athabasca Oil Sands Project in Canada we use around two to three barrels of fresh water to extract one barrel of bitumen. We recycle all water recovered from this extraction process, but need fresh water to replace the water that evaporates.

The government allocates around 2.2% of the Athabasca River’s flow to the oil and gas industry. We have a permit to use 0.6% of the flow but in 2012 used less than 0.07% of the flow.

Cleaning waste water

When we extract oil from the oil sands a mixture of water, coarse sand, silt and clay particles, and a little oil is left behind. We first store this mixture, known as tailings, in a pond near the oil sands mine.

Over time the tailings will dry out, leaving solids that will become the foundation for future landscapes

Over time the tailings will dry out, leaving solids that will become the foundation for future landscapes

The pond can contain high concentrations of acids and salts which are potentially harmful to wildlife. Birds are at risk as they can land on the pond. We detect approaching birds using radar and our system produces noise, light and movement to deter them from landing.

Bird View

We operate a system to deter birds from landing on tailings ponds.

We do not directly release any water used in the process into the environment and we monitor and control it to keep it on our site.

Once the tailings settle, our plan is to lay sand onto the foundation, replace the soil removed for mining, and introduce plants similar to those that were there in the area before mining.

This process conforms to 2009 legislation from the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board.