With energy prices soaring and the province’s oil sands booming, Alberta’s capital abounds with refineries that upgrade bitumen harvested from the northern soil into synthetic oil. Although the sands are frequently cited as a blot on Canada’s green image, Edmonton’s drainage utility is making part of the process much more environmentally sound.
Instead of drawing fresh water for the refining process from the North Saskatchewan River, waste water from the city’s award-winning Gold Bar treatment plant is being used in Petro-Canada’s Strathcona County refinery. “This is an excellent example of using a waste stream from one sector as a resource for another, to the benefit of the economy and health,” says Bernadette Conant, director of programs for the Canadian Water Network, located at the University of Waterloo.
Gold Bar reclaims three to five million litres of waste water per day, an amount that will grow to 15 million litres by the end of this year. “We clean it up to the point that it can be useful for industry—and avoid the hard work of taking it out of the river and treating it again,” says Vince Corkery, director of waste-water treatment for the City of Edmonton. Petro-Canada uses the water to make steam and hydrogen, and as boiler feedwater.
Edmonton, a city facing rapid population growth, aims to recycle as much as 200 million litres per day for industrial use in the next 20 to 30 years. “Our whole framework will ensure adequate water supply for the residents of the region, industrial users and those impacted by the ecosystem, including those downstream,” says Corkery. “Right now, water isn’t scarce. But we’re smart enough to know that if we do things wrong, it will be.”
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