The Water Technology Development Centre

Building a live-process fluid lab to test new technologies
Speed up the time it takes to get new water technologies into operation

The Water Technology Development Centre (WTDC) is a first-of-its-kind demonstration site for oil sands project partner companies to test water treatment technologies at a commercial scale.

Located at Suncor’s Firebag facility, 120 km north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, this $140 million project was convened under Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), with joint industry partners, Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources, Cenovus and CNOOC.

The WTDC began operations in August 2019 and is currently testing a number of technologies. 

The project’s goal is to enable development of new technologies to improve our environmental performance in water, land footprint, waste, and GHG impacts.

Technology and Innovation


The 5,000m² field test facility is connected to Suncor’s Firebag facility to provide convenient, reliable access to live process fluids for testing above ground in situ technologies.

Key features:

•    Five supply streams, with varying compositions from the commercial operating plant are connected to the WTDC. This allows testing at the temperatures and pressures experienced in normal operation, ensuring representative results from the test program. Test fluids can also be trucked to the WTDC from other operating sites.
•    Three waste headers allow for waste and by-products from tests to be returned to the Firebag facility or trucked out.
•    A Steam Generator is integrated with the WTDC. This equipment is similar to the most common technology used across the industry to generate the steam required to produce oil from SAGD (steam assisted gravity drainage) assets.  
•    Water-Oil Separation equipment allows for testing of new technologies to improve the first step in bitumen production after it is pumped above ground.
•    Eight storage tanks allow for management of incoming and outgoing fluids between the WTDC, Firebag, and external trucking.

Technology testing capability
  • Capable of testing up to five technologies simultaneously.
  • Indoor and outdoor testing areas.
Technology testing selection process

Technology ideas can be submitted for consideration on a non-confidential basis through COSIA’s Environmental Technology Assessment Portal (E-TAP). Technologies put forward for WTDC pilot consideration must meet a defined technology readiness level (TRL).

Environmental Benefits

Using a dedicated facility for testing reduces risk and disruption of producing assets (or operations). It allows operators to accelerate the development and implementation of new technologies, share expertise, risks, costs. It also shortens the timeframe required to field test technologies and move them to commercial application.


Suncor is leading the WTDC initiative, which includes the following members: Canadian Natural, Cenovus and CNOOC.