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Large volumes of water are needed to separate the oil from the clay and sand. At our oil sands mine in Canada, 80% of the water we need comes from recycling the water we use. The separation process leaves behind a mixture of water, sand and clay that we carefully manage.
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
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.
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.