A North American first

Regina’s Co-op Refinery Complex is set to become the first such facility in North America to recycle 100 percent of its wastewater for steam production.

Crude oil is the primary input in any refinery operation, but fresh water is also essential for the production of steam used in the refining process. When the Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC) in Regina, Saskatchewan completed a major expansion in 2013, the refinery’s water consumption rose along with its production output. The refinery quickly determined the draw on city and well water sources was unsustainable. The $200-million solution—CRC’s water improvement project—goes fully operational in the fall of 2016. The project will reduce CRC’s freshwater consumption by 28 percent and recycle more than 7.5 million litres of refinery wastewater every day for steam production.

“This is a significant investment that helps us realize our long term vision focused on sustainability and environmental stewardship,” says Scott Banda, CEO of Federated Co-operatives Limited—CRC’s parent company—in a news release.


above: A membrane bioreactor in which a special formula of bacteria breaks down volatile organic compounds in the wastewater.

left: The yellow railings inside CRC’s wastewater improvement facility encircle tanks where ZeeWeed membranes filter out suspended solids. Photos courtesy Co-op Refinery Complex.


The recycling begins in wastewater ponds located throughout the 800-acre CRC complex. A special blend of live bacteria consumes water impurities while spaghetti-like ZeeWeed membrane filters out suspended solids. The system then uses high-efficiency reverse osmosis (HERO) to remove other dissolved and suspended elements from the water. Nearly two-thirds of the recycled water goes into steam production; the balance is pumped into deep wells.

“When you look at this holistically, we’ve reduced our water footprint and our air emission footprint,” says Gil Le Dressay, CRC’s Vice-President, Refinery Operations. The water improvement project delivers the added benefit of significantly cutting emissions from volatile organic compounds, which helps reduce odours from the ponds.