The Government of Alberta prohibits the release of any water that does not meet quality regulations. Syncrude does not discharge process-affected water, waste water or any industrial run-off into local water bodies.
The only discharges to the Athabasca River are treated sanitary sewage similar to that discharged by municipalities, diverted clean surface water and basal water from the Aurora Mine via Stanley Creek, and clean surface water from a gravel pit.
Industry invests around $50 million annually in the Joint Oil Sands Monitoring (JOSM) program which was established in 2012 by the provincial and federal governments to ensure credible, transparent and science-based environmental monitoring of the oil sands industry. Activities include water, biodiversity and ecosystem health monitoring. Details on these projects can be found on the Government of Alberta website and at the Canada-Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Monitoring Information Portal.
While Syncrude does not release process-affected water into the environment, we understand storage is not a viable long-term practice. As we decrease fluid fine tailings volumes and expedite landscape restoration activities, the hydrology of the reclaimed landscape must be integrated within the surrounding environment. To address these challenges, Syncrude collaborates through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) and with academic institutions to research and develop appropriate water treatment methods.
For example, Syncrude’s Research department is investigating tailings water treatment using petroleum coke, a byproduct of our upgrading process. The treatment is similar to using a home water filter. The coke, which is almost pure carbon, acts as a filter that removes contaminants such as naphthenic acids. Field programs completed to date confirm the method produces water that safely supports aquatic life. Subject to regulatory approval, we are planning a larger pilot-scale plant to further assess treatment efficiency, and provide engineering design information necessary for potential commercial-scale implementation.
Visit our Sustainability Report for further information on our commitment to responsible water use and our latest performance.