Scenario-Based Assessment and Projection of Water Use for the Canadian Oil and Gas Sector and Several Low-carbon Technologies Available to the Oil Sands

  • Author / Creator
    Patrick, Thomas Edward Lamont
  • The Canadian oil and gas sector is a significant contributor to Canada’s economy, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and water use. Society is increasingly focused on GHG emissions, and it is broadly recognized that GHG reductions in the oil and gas sector have an important role in Canada’s meeting its national targets. The oil and gas sector has set goals to reduce its GHG emissions by reducing the emissions intensity of its products. As the sector as a whole and the oil sands in particular are regionally significant water users, changes in sectoral activity or technological makeup due to these GHG emissions reduction options may have significant impacts on local water resources. There has been limited focus on the assessment of integrated GHG and water footprints of oil sands sector. This research is aimed at addressing these gaps.
    This thesis describes the bottom-up modelling of long-term water use of the oil and gas sector under several production scenarios and long-term water-use impacts of several GHG-reducing technologies in the oil sands in order to develop integrated cost-GHG-water use impacts for those technologies. The Canadian Water Evaluation and Planning Model (WEAP-Canada) was expanded and used to project the long-term water use of six oil and gas subsectors in nine provinces. Nineteen rivers were considered, and water use was projected on an annual basis. The added features of the model include variable water-use intensities for several subsectors over the historic period, updated production scenarios, and additional baseline water-use data. The model outputs were validated using historic water-use data from 2005 to 2017, and the water-use projections are presented for 2020 to 2050.
    Four water-use projection scenarios were established based on production projections from the Canadian Energy Regulator (CER) and represent their reference case, the evolving climate policies scenario, a low oil and gas price scenario, and a high oil and gas price scenario. The reference scenario water projection showed an increase from the sector’s national annual water consumption of 317 million cubic metres (MCM) in 2020 to 409 MCM (+29%) by 2050. The subsectors with the largest contribution to this increase are natural gas and surface bitumen mining, which over this period increased their consumption by 30 MCM (+104%) and 18 MCM (+11%), respectively. The low and high price scenarios had a 2050 sectoral consumption of 278 MCM and 526 MCM, representing increases from the 2020 total of -12% and +65%, respectively, and differences from the reference case 2050 total of -32% and +29%, respectively. A fifth water projection scenario was established based on assumed changes in the future water-use intensity of individual oil and gas subsectors.
    WEAP-Canada was then integrated with the previously developed Canadian Low Emission Analysis Platform (LEAP-Canada) model to allow the water-use impacts of several oil sands low-carbon technologies to be projected. Nine low-carbon technologies were considered, and their previously developed adoption rates across three carbon price scenarios were used alongside newly introduced water-use intensity parameters to estimate each technology’s annual water use under each carbon price. The cumulative 2020-2050 marginal water consumption by pathway ranged from +753 MCM (increased consumption) in the hydropower-electrolysis pathway, to +4 MCM in the biomass gasification pathway, to -182 MCM (decreased consumption) in the SAGD cogeneration pathway. An indicator representing the amount of water consumed to achieve GHG emission abatement for each pathway showed that between +188 m³/tCO₂e (hydropower-electrolysis, increased consumption), +1.04 m³/tCO₂e (biomass gasification), and -2.49 m³/tCO₂e (SAGD cogeneration, decreased consumption) is required. The effects of several carbon price points between $0/tCO₂e and $50/tCO₂e were also quantified.
    These results provide clarity on how technology and production outlook changes occurring in the sector will affect the less addressed but important measure of water use. This information ultimately provides a range of watershed-resolution annual water use information for the sector and quantified relationships among several environmental impacts of low-carbon technology options for industry leaders and policymakers.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2023
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.