Tourmaline Named Energy Excellence Awards Champion For Leadership In Reducing Fresh Water Use

The second annual Energy Excellence Awards (EEAs) program, presented by the Daily Oil Bulletin, uniquely recognizes energy excellence and focuses on the advancement of collaboration within Canada’s energy industry.

For 2020, the DOB received close to 90 nominations in four broad awards categories — Project Execution Excellence; Innovation & Technology Excellence; Environmental Excellence; and Exporting Excellence — recognizing work completed last year. The nominees were further broken down into 12 subcategories across the four groupings, before being judged by a committee of industry leaders.

In the following days we will present the champions in each subcategory. Today, we feature the champion in Environmental Excellence in the subcategory of Cleantech: Water.

The Champions stories are compiled here, and access all the Finalists stories here.

Champion Announcement Podcast: Listen to our podcast announcing the champion of this category and a panel discussion on what makes organizations and technologies within this category stand out as it relates to lowering emissions, reducing freshwater use, and limiting surface disturbances.

Leading the discussion is Wendy Ell, director of strategic partnerships and industry development for Glacier Resource Innovation Group, which publishes the DOB. Joining her is Brian Van Vliet, with the environmental solutions division of Spartan Controls, Silver Sponsor of the EEAs; Morgan Rodwell, senior director of process technology for Fluor Canada, Gold Sponsor of the EEAs; as well as Jason Switzer, executive director of the Alberta Clean Technology Industry Alliance (ACTia).

Click here to listen.

It has often been noted that oil and gas companies are more water producers than hydrocarbon producers, since many wells produce well over 90 per cent water, and today’s hydraulically fractured wells require huge volumes of water to complete.

On average, a fracturing operation takes 5,000-30,000 cubic metres of water, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Sourcing, managing and disposing of such large volumes of water is not only costly, but has become a sore point among industry critics.

Minimizing water use has therefore become both an economic and an environmental priority among unconventional producers. It is a challenge Tourmaline Oil Corp. took on early, and it has maintained its lead with technology-driven changes that reduce consumption of fresh water and the volume of flowback water that must be injected into disposal wells, earning it the Energy Excellence Award in the Cleantech: Water category.

Tourmaline’s water infrastructure was designed to increase the amount of recycled water used in fracking as well as reduce and eventually eliminate the need for fresh water. It has now reached the point where 100 per cent of frac flowback water in B.C. is recycled and 74 per cent of water used in B.C. operations is recycled.

Most of the company’s water recycling capacity resides in B.C. — of the total 300,000 cubic metres of Tourmaline storage capacity, 250,000 cubic metres of the capacity and 120 kilometres of dedicated water pipeline are in Northeast B.C. Its goal is to grow its infrastructure into Alberta over the upcoming years.

Tourmaline’s commitment to reducing fresh water use in its fracking operations is demonstrated by its reuse of over 895,000 cubic metres of water (293,000 in Alberta and 602,000 in B.C.) that would have otherwise been sent to disposal.

The technology includes of a series of pipelines, pumps, headers, controls, filters, heaters, temporary storage and flowback ponds that facilitate recycling over 95 per cent of the company’s produced and flowback water.

“Over the last few years we have significantly exceeded our expectations,” the company said. “Tourmaline is now recycling 95 per cent of our flowback water, with most wells in B.C. now completed using 100 per cent produced water and Deep Basin using about 50 per cent fresh water.”

Additional benefits include a significant greenhouse gas emissions reduction from reduced trucking, significantly better safety statistics with less trucking and much better public relations from reduced road use, notes Tourmaline. In B.C., it estimates that for every 10-well pad completed with water pipeline infrastructure, approximately 2,000 truckloads of produced water are taken off the road.

Internal collaboration has been essential to its water management initiative, it says, for example in the pre-planning of pads to license water pipelines to location prior to the drilling and completions phase.

Externally, Tourmaline collaborated with several other producers. Its infrastructure is now at a size that has allowed Tourmaline to recycle third-party water from other producers. In 2019, it recycled over 50,000 cubic metres of third-party water that would have otherwise been hauled to disposal.

Tourmaline was also the first to receive regulatory approval for above ground synthetically lined wall storage systems, more commonly known as C-rings, with a capacity greater than 3,000 cubic metres.

In collaboration with governments, Tourmaline’s Banshee water facility was the first ever approved, engineered and constructed containment pond for storage of produced fluid and fracture water flowback fluids in Alberta. It features 50,000 cubic metres total capacity of permanent produced/flowback water storage and 6,600 cubic metres additional temporary water storage capacity from C-rings.

Its Horse facility was second of its kind, paving the way for other companies to obtain flowback pond licences.

“Tourmaline uses C-rings to temporarily and safely store flowback water on almost all of our completions sites. Due to our use of C-rings, we are leading the way with record low water usage compared to our peers,” the company said.

Industry-wide benefits

Recycling water has several broad benefits to Tourmaline and the industry in general. Among other things, reducing the amount of hauled fresh water and water hauled to disposal has saved a significant amount of cost, said the company.

“Allowing third parties to haul to our facilities has sourced Tourmaline with free frac water, all while saving the third-party disposal costs. Reducing trucking has reduced fuel consumption, GHG emissions, health and safety risks from road travel, road wear and repair costs, and has improved relations with our stakeholders,” Tourmaline said.

Through the Natural Gas Innovation Fund (an industry-funded granting organization developed by the Canadian Gas Association) Tourmaline has sponsored SaltWorks Technologies Inc. to develop a low cost, low emissions water evaporating system. “This technology will allow oil and gas producers and other industries to evaporate water that can’t be disposed of, so it can be reintroduced to the environment as clean, fresh water.”

Canada’s largest gas producer said it plans to eliminate virtually all fresh water usage in well stimulations in all core gas focused areas by 2022 and add to permanent recycled fluid inventories in Alberta and B.C. in order to continually advance usage of recycled fluid.

The Champion Series is brought to you by Fluor Canada, our Gold Sponsor, and Spartan Controls, our Silver Sponsor.

Fluor Canada: Since 1949, Fluor Canada has been involved in the engineering, procurement and construction of a wide range of energy related projects that are spread across the Canadian landscape. Fluor provides local, regional and international clients with full-service capabilities, which include economic evaluations, conceptual engineering, feasibility studies, program management, detailed engineering, procurement, transportation and logistics, modularization, fabrication, direct-hire construction, construction management, commissioning, start-up, operations and maintenance.

Spartan Controls: Spartan Controls was founded in 1963 and is an employee-owned company with people and infrastructure in 14 towns and cities across Western Canada. Spartan Controls provides a very broad range of industrial automation products & solutions to all the process industries.

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