Alberta oil and gasoline firms may even see water use restricted as excessive drought persists into 2024

Producers that use groundwater nearer to southern Alberta could ‘need to cease producing altogether,’ a College of Calgary professor mentioned

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Oil and gasoline producers in Alberta could possibly be pressured to cease diverting scarce water subsequent yr because the province stays within the grips of a record-setting drought, the province’s power regulator mentioned final week

Alberta has already requested some water licence-holders to cease taking water because of low river ranges, in line with a latest presentation by the Ministry of Surroundings and Protected Areas — although it doesn’t say to whom these requests apply nor the industries they’re in.

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The ministry didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

The Alberta Power Regulator (AER) wrote in a latest bulletin that water licence-holders could possibly be restricted from diverting water to gasoline their operations because of low water ranges.

“If situations stay dry over the course of this winter and spring 2024, water availability may turn into a major subject,” an AER spokesperson wrote in an announcement to Postmedia.

Producers could possibly be requested to restrict water use, amongst different situations. Oil and gasoline manufacturing averages between one and 4 barrels of water for each barrel of oil that’s extracted, mentioned Tricia Stadnyk, Tier II Canada Analysis Chair in hydraulic modelling and an affiliate professor with the division of geography on the College of Calgary.

The AER mentioned producers within the area south of Purple Deer ought to put together for water diversion restrictions heading into 2024.

“For the South Saskatchewan River Basin, the place the state of affairs is extra extreme, the AER will attain out to business licence-holders this winter to hunt estimates of their 2024 future water demand,” it wrote. “Licensees prone to not with the ability to divert water in 2024 ought to put together contingency plans.”

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The Canadian Affiliation of Petroleum Producers didn’t instantly reply to a request for touch upon the impact the drought could have on producers.

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A lot of Alberta east of Calgary experiencing ‘distinctive drought’

The South Saskatchewan River Basin — which covers most of southern Alberta as much as Purple Deer — is the main space of concern, the AER’s bulletin mentioned.

The 50,000-square-kilometre Purple Deer River Basin, although experiencing barely much less important drought, is a significant oil and gasoline producing area. A 2013 report mentioned there have been 130,000 oil and gasoline wells within the basin.

That basin is at present beneath 5 water-shortage advisories.

Francine Forrest, govt director of the Purple Deer River Watershed Alliance, mentioned the drought is “fairly critical” within the basin, although its reservoir is round 85 per cent full.

East of Calgary, municipalities resembling Brooks, Drumheller and Oyen are experiencing “distinctive drought” — the best score on Agriculture Canada’s drought monitor. The Bow River Basin, which covers Brooks, Calgary and far of the Rockies, is at 54 per cent of historic pure stream.

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And a few of southern Alberta’s main reservoirs are lower than 30 per cent full, in line with a latest Alberta authorities presentation.

Southern Alberta has borne the brunt of the continued drought — the Oldman River Basin, which encompasses a lot of the world round Lethbridge as much as Excessive River, is seeing 37 per cent of its historic pure stream. That space’s water-use wants are dominated by irrigation.

Drought map November 2023

Municipalities and livestock are on the high of the meals chain when droughts hit emergency ranges. Whereas exceptions are made to maintain municipalities with sufficient water and to maintain animals alive, these with the longest-running licences get precedence, whereas the latest licence-holders are additional down the road.

Oil and gasoline producers, in the meantime, use Short-term Diversion Licenses (TDL) to divert water to their operations, giving them minimal seniority.

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Whether or not oil and gasoline firms might want to curtail or cease producing will depend on whether or not their wells depend on floor water or groundwater, mentioned Stadnyk.

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Producers that use groundwater nearer to southern Alberta could “need to cease producing altogether” in some unspecified time in the future subsequent yr. However the bulk of producers in Alberta draw from the Athabasca River, she mentioned, which is barely more healthy than different water sources in the intervening time.

These within the north, in the meantime, have extra time to extend efficiencies round water use, although the clock is ticking.

“(Producers) would possibly take a look at the historic streamflow information and say the development is the streamflow is rising,” she mentioned. “They wouldn’t be incorrect to say that within the Athabasca River, however why it’s rising is a results of rising glacial soften contribution — and the issue is that it’s not infinite. It’s going to expire,” she mentioned.

Alberta would declare emergency in early- to late-summer 2024

Any provincial determination to declare an emergency hinges on snowpack and rain ranges going into subsequent spring.

However early indicators acknowledged by the province present southern Alberta is projected to see much less snow than common, and the continued El Niño climate sample makes it 62 per cent probably the nice and cozy and dry situations will proceed from April to June 2024. Temperatures are additionally forecast to be 50 to 60 per cent above regular.

The province plans to develop and implement collaborative agreements by Might.

If the drought situations proceed, it will declare an emergency between Might and August 2024.

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