We are committed to careful stewardship of the planet’s resources, including water. We do not currently operate in areas that are considered highly water stressed; however, our capital and operating procedures recognize the critical importance of this resource. As a result, we emphasize:
We expect to begin reporting to CDP Water in the near term.
Operationally and environmentally, we continue to work hard to establish the most efficient and sustainable ways of sourcing and reusing this critical resource. As the single largest component used in hydraulic fracturing operations, water is essential to developing many types of oil and gas reservoirs, particularly in North America. In Vermilion’s operations, we use fracturing only in some semi-conventional clastic reservoirs. We do not develop shale or other unconventional reservoirs. As a result, our semi-conventional development activities are significantly less frac intensive than shale development, requiring much lower volumes of water. 303
Approximately one-quarter of the water we pump during a Canadian frac, for example, returns immediately during flowback operations. We then employ fracture fluid technology that lets us re-use this flowback water on subsequent wells. We are also assessing where we can adjust completion schedules to optimize water use, and recycle flowback water 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 to replace other water sources.
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 freshwater aquifers down to the government-established base of groundwater protection. Steel casing is then put into 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 that uses 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. This data tells us 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 1,750 metres below surface and the base of the deepest groundwater is at approximately 600 metres. We therefore maintain an approximate separation distance of 1,100 metres of rock 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 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 we have invested time and money in an effort to make them viable. Examples of this include research and development to implement technology that allows for the treatment and re-use of advanced gel chemical fracture flowback fluids. This approach reduces the freshwater needed to complete wells and the volume of water disposed of via deep well injection.
We publicly disclose all of the additives we use to FracFocus in Canada and the United States for 100% of our operations there, as well as via our regulatory submissions. We continue to work to decrease the required concentration of our additives and we work with our fracturing suppliers to source even better alternatives for future consideration.