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As California entered a period of severe drought in 2008, the challenges of using thermal methods to extract heavy oil became compounded by the difficulty of securing freshwater sources from which to generate the high-quality steam that these methods require. In an effort to manage the crisis, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed a state of emergency and enacted widespread water-conservation measures. The drought, which officially lasted until March 2011, impacted heavy oil fields in the state that rely on affordable fresh water to feed boilers in thermal techniques such as steamflooding and cyclic steam stimulation (CSS). Essentially, these thermal techniques involve the injection of steam into wells to heat the viscous oil to flowing temperatures. As the drought intensified in California, the prospect of feeding boilers with oilfield produced water instead was studied as an alternative.
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