More nuclear oilsands – water

This is a follow up to several articles on the Canadian oilsands and using nuclear reactors to power the oil separation process.

Past articles are here (details on the deal) and here (where I first discuss the whatif the nuclear oilsands are scaled up)

Of the total water allocated in the province, the oil and gas sector actually uses less than half of one per cent for water and steam injection processes (enhanced oil recovery). Water used for these purposes has declined from 88.7 million cubic metres in 1973 to 47.5 million cubic metres in 2001 – 37 million cubic metres of this was non-saline (fresh) water, 10.5 million was saline or brackish water. (Source: Water Use for Injection Purposes in Alberta report, Alberta Environment, 2003)

A CANDU reactor would (700MW) would generate 420,000 barrels per day of steam. A cubic meter is 8.38 barrels. Therefore, the (700MW) reactor would generate 18.3 million cubic meters of steam per year. 57.4 million cubic meters of steam for the 2.2 GW twin reactors. Water expands to 1700 times its volume in steam.
So the 2.2 GW reactor would be using 33,800 cubic meters of water for that amount of steam. Scaling up that amount of water usage 100 times would be well within the bounds of the water allocated for steam and water injection. The steam for the nuclear plants does not seem to be the limiting factor. Also, as I not further down this article 90% of the water can be recovered and recycled in the SAGD process.

The oil and gas industries complete allocation is 432.4 million cubic meters of water. (4.6% of 9.4 billion cubic meters of water).

The oil and gas industries gets 178.6 million cubic feet of water for steam and water injection. (1.9% of 9.4 billion cubic metres of water). This amount could get increased if needed.

If agriculture had to give up some of its water allocation, then in theory 33% of the the 9.4 billion cubic meters of water might go to oil and gas. The re-allocation can be reduced by using wastewater (the city people use the water and then the waste can be used by the oil industry) from the 11% of the water (1 billion cubic meters) that is used for Municiple water. The oilsands industry could be scaled up 65 times from 2001 levels even still using the same wasteful methods as used in 2001.

Up to the end of 2001, Alberta had allocated over 9.4 billion cubic metres of water annually for a variety of uses. Allocations from surface water sources account for 98 per cent of this total; the remaining two per cent are from groundwater sources.

For 2001, the oil and gas sector was licensed to use 4.6 per cent of all the water allocated in Alberta; less than half (1.9 per cent) of this water is allocated for water and steam injection operations. By comparison, the agriculture sector (including irrigation) was licensed to use the largest amount of water of any economic sector, at approximately 46 per cent. Municipal water supplies accounted for 11 per cent.

On page 25 of this report (Technology roadmap for the oilsands), it has chart which shows that thermal (steam) extraction of oilsands was using about 7 million cubic meters of water. This produced 125000 bpd. Scaled up 200 times. It would be 1.4 billion cubic meters of water. 15% of Alberta’s water. It would mean re-allocating water or re-using wasteawater or recycling more of the SAGD water and being more efficient, but it is feasible. Especially if there was great need because of any potential peak oil situations.

A criticism of some of this is that “even the oil industry is not looking at more than 4 million bpd from the oilsands”. That is because the oil industry does not believe in peak oil. They are looking at 4 million bpd and thinking about new markets they would need to find to sell it.

So in summary, (since all the dots connections have to be spelled out):

1. There is enough water in Alberta to scale up, even if water inefficient
processes from 2001 are scaled up.
2. The water/steam for the nuclear reactors is not that large a demand
and can be scaled up and the nuclear reactor/SAGD process is more
water efficient than current oilsand methods
3. The steam from cooling any nuclear reactor used for SAGD can be 90% recycled
4. The water for the nuclear reactors can be wastewater
5. The SAGD process is more water efficient than other methods
currently in use in the oilsands.
6. It would be better for more efficient water methods to be used so that scaling up is comfortable using the current water allocation (178.6 million cubic meters/year) or the current allocation plus wastewater (1 billion cubic meters/year)

Also reviewing the other points that I have made in a thread on the oildrum:

In March 2006, Canada’s leading private sector companies in the nuclear and power plant field, Babcock & Wilcox Canada, GE Canada, Hitachi Canada and SNC-Lavalin Nuclear joined together with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) to create Team CANDU. The financial backing from those companies means that cost overruns will be borne by them and not by the Canadian tax

The project (the first 2.2 GW twin reactors) is expected to cost C$5.5 to 6.2 billion.

The 6 most recent CANDU reactors in S Korea and China were on time and on budget.

the CANDU reactor in Qinshan

Another point is that a CANDU reactor Can
generate 30-40% more energy from Light water reactor “waste” or unburned fuel and CANDU reactors can also breed Thorium.

CANDU fuel cycles

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