We produce key performance indicators on water use in the Performance Metrics section of this report. This includes water withdrawal by source, and percentage and volume of water recycled and reused.
We endeavor to reduce our potable water consumption wherever possible. In February 2015, for example, we carried out a workover at our Vic Bilh asset in order to convert a suspended oil well into a saline water producing well for injection support. We expect this non-potable water reduction initiative will conserve approximately 146,000 m3 of potable water per year.
Saline water, also commonly known as “brackish” water, contains more than 10,000 parts per million of total dissolved solids – it is not suitable for drinking water or agriculture.
Freshwater is non-potable water with a dissolved salt concentration of less than 10,000 parts per million of total dissolved solids.
Potable water is drinking water. Vermilion does not use potable water for any of its hydraulic fracturing operations.
Hydraulic fracturing is a government regulated technology that has been successfully used in Canada for more than 60 years. Some formations will not produce hydrocarbons without hydraulic fracturing, so we elect to use this rock stimulation method on some wells to enhance their productive capability. Government regulations, in combination with industry operating practices and Vermilion’s own focus on Best-in-Class HSE and Operational Excellence, help ensure safeguards are in place to protect the environment, fresh water aquifers and ensure safe and responsible operations.
As the single largest component used in hydraulic fracturing operations, water is essential to developing unconventional oil and gas wells in Alberta. Operationally and environmentally, we continue to work hard to establish the most efficient and sustainable ways of sourcing and reusing this resource. G4-EN10, G4-EN23
Approximately one-quarter of the water we pump during a Cardium frac returns immediately during flowback operations. The fracture fluid technology we employ further facilitates the re-use of the flowback water on subsequent wells.
We are also working on ways to further reduce the amount of water utilized, including adjustments in the completion schedules. In addition, flowback water can be recycled to reduce overall make-up water requirements. Finally, we are also looking at the potential of using produced water (non-potable water produced with oil and gas), from our operations.
We operate in accordance with strict regulations and Industry Recommended Practices (IRPs) that protect groundwater sources through exploration and production phases. For example, Petroleum Services Association of Canada’s IRP #14 ensures that non-toxic, water-based drilling fluid is used when penetrating fresh-water aquifers down to the government established base of groundwater protection, then steel casing is put in place and cemented in permanently to isolate the upper portion of the well while drilling to the final reservoir target.
In Alberta, the Cardium formation is Vermilion’s shallowest development play where we currently use hydraulic fracturing practices to stimulate the formation. Here, as in our other areas of operation, we employ micro-seismic and computer modeling to ensure we are not contacting or impacting potable water aquifers through our activities. The micro-seismic events measured during hydraulic fracturing operations indicate the height and extent of the fracture system. We know from this seismic data that a typical hydraulic fracture height in the Cardium interval is up to 100 metres. We also know that the Cardium interval is typically found at 1750 metres below surface and the base of the deepest groundwater is at approximately 600 metres, so we therefore maintain an approximate distance of 1100 metres from the base of groundwater protection to the top of the hydraulic fracture.
Flowback fluids are contained onsite in a closed system where they are later treated and re-used or alternatively disposed of at authorized facilities at the conclusion of a program. In addition to accessing current technology in our operations, Vermilion has been involved in trialing many new and emerging technologies and invested time and money in an effort to make them viable.
We publicly disclose all of the additives we use to FracFocus, as well as via our regulatory submissions. We continue to work to decrease the required concentration of our additives and work with our fracturing suppliers to source even “greener” alternatives for future considerations.