OTC: Heavy crude a heavy user of water

In recent years, the oil sands in Canada have attracted massive investment from U.S. oil companies in search of new sources of oil in friendly regions.
Environmentalists, however, have been less enthused, raising red flags about the high carbon emmissions associated with extracting the molasses-like heavy crude from the region.
That issue is sure to persist. But David Barrington, general manager of non-conventional resources at ConocoPhillips — which operates in the region — said another issue is looming that could present an even greater challenge: the amount of water needed to produce the heavy crude oil.
Currently, it takes 2.5 barrels of water to produce one barrel of bitumen, a type of heavy crude oil. And with production rising sharply, the strain on water supplies could be more acutely felt in coming years, Barrington said in a panel discussion at the 2008 Offshore Technology Conference today.
While Barrington contineus to believe “heavy oil is the future,” he acknowledged some of the environmental challenges will need to be addressed.