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Cogeneration Increases SAGD Efficiency/GHG Performance - and Can Provide Alberta Consumers with Reliable, Low Cost Electricity:  a Win-Win Scenario

It's a scientific revolution— and it was developed right here in Alberta.

SAGD and Cogeneration in conjunction provide three extraordinary benefits:

(1) Job creation and increased economic activity,

(2) lower emissions for oil production and electricity generation,

(3) lower cost electricity for Albertans


Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage, or SAGD, has changed for the better the way we produce oil sands.

SAGD is relatively new production technology tested and developed over the past twenty years and is now a proven commercial success.  Production is currently over 700,000 bbl/day using horizontal wells drilled from central pad sites that minimize land use.  Brackish/salt water is used for steam generation and Alberta rules mandate the recycle of all water, along with strict air quality and many other environmental regulations.   The SAGD process requires heat energy for steam generation and electricity for other production processes such as well production and water recycle treatment, meaning electricity is also necessary for the production of bitumen.  

Cogeneration is a system that uses the waste exhaust of a gas turbine that is generating electricity, to generate additional steam.  By combining the generation of these two products into one system, energy efficiency is achieved, resulting in less energy input and less greenhouse gases emitted.

Cogeneration is an opportunity to be more efficient in the supply of heat and power at oil sands and other facilities in Alberta.   Self-generation of electricity at industrial sites reduces the load and scale of Alberta’s transmission system – an additional benefit to Albertans.

Because oil sands operate 24/7, cogeneration units also operate continuously.  SAGD cogeneration can be sized large enough to also export power to Alberta’s grid on a continuous basis.  The excess power supply is offered at very low prices to Alberta’s power market to ensure reliable steam generation. Therefore, SAGD sites with cogeneration lower the average marginal cost of power to Alberta.  

To me government policies to encourage cogeneration seems like a "no-brainer,” and others have shown this sentiment.

 Two recent studies by the Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research Initiative at the University of Calgary, show that SAGD cogeneration is cheaper and more environmentally responsible than switching from coal to other natural gas generation types.

Recently Dr. David B. Layzell a professor and director of the Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research Initiative at the University of Calgary,  wrote about the studies in the Calgary Herald. Please read and share this important information with your networks.


Unfortunately however, cogeneration is a business choice at oil sands facilities. In which the opportunity to install more systems exists at a significant scale.  Companies need appropriate policies to reduce investment uncertainties when undertaking large capital projects.  So these uncertainties must be stabilized, so the win-win benefits of Cogeneration can be realized.


Will you take a couple minutes today to email your MLA and ask them to make this a priority in Alberta? The benefits are three fold: job creation, increased oil production and economic activity and lower emissions on oil production and electricity generation at a lower price.


Also stay tuned, Canada Action will have more to share on the important role cogeneration can play to help Albertans responsibly develop their resources, provide power to our communities, and provide financial benefit to taxpayers and consumers.