Our company operates in a variety of ecosystems, some with sensitive characteristics. Our long-term business success in these areas depends on our ability to understand and manage environmental issues, including biodiversity.

Our approach
Our Upstream exploration and production activities in particular can interact with a variety of natural areas, including foothills, prairie ecosystems, northern peat lands and Arctic areas. Careful consideration of biodiversity is an important part of our ongoing operations and project planning in these areas.

Performance at a glance

More than $6 million invested in our Upstream operations in 2011 for wildlife studies and environmental conservation programs in Canada

Our actions include:

  • monitoring wildlife
  • considering biodiversity when designing new projects
  • funding wildlife studies
  • using low-impact technologies
  • changing operating practices
  • sponsoring community programs and projects

What we are doing
We are strong supporters of the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI), a non-profit organization composed of government, industry, academia and environmental groups. By participating in ABMI, we are contributing to world-class research about the cumulative effects of oil sands. The institute collects data and reports on species, habitats and human footprint activities across the province, including the Lower Athabasca region, where Kearl and the Cold Lake operation are located. We have provided baseline environmental assessment data to ABMI and in 2011 contributed $337,000 to the organization.

Partnering with Ducks Unlimited Canada
Since 2005, Imperial and Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) have been collaborating on a wetland restoration trial program at Cold Lake. In 2010, we entered into a $725,000 four-year partnership project focused on wetland inventory and research for Cold Lake and in the Fort Nelson area in northeastern BC. Through this partnership, we are working together to better understand wetland features and apply the knowledge gained in planning future development to minimize wetland disturbance. To date, our partnership contributions have supported the development of wetland inventories encompassing 10.3 million acres in the Beaver River watershed and 16.9 million acres in the Fort Nelson Boreal Conservation Project. In the fall of 2011, a joint workshop was held in Cold Lake for operations staff to review the completed wetland inventory products and facilitate some on-the-ground sharing of experiences with DUC about construction and operations challenges and opportunities. Information gathered in Cold Lake supported further dialogue with DUC and other industry partners at a best management practices workshop held in Calgary later in the fall.

Moose crossing

Cold Lake's Wildlife at Work program
The Cold Lake operation is the biggest in situ oil sands project in Canada, with a lease covering 780 square kilometres, and is steward to a variety of wildlife habitat. Monitoring programs have been in place for decades, and we remain committed to their continuous improvement through the operation's Wildlife at Work program.

In 2010, Cold Lake's Wildlife at Work program was certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council, the first-ever Upstream oil and gas site to be so recognized in Canada.

At Cold Lake, we encourage field operators (all employees and contractors) to use observation cards and a wildlife camera monitoring program to record the movement of wildlife on our operating lease. The lease area also provides forested habitat that is attractive to various bird and bat species, and for several years, Cold Lake has maintained a bird and bat nest box program throughout the lease area.

A volunteer wildlife team from different plant and field operating units was created in 2010 to bring new ideas forward and encourage more involvement in Cold Lake Operations wildlife programs. The Wildlife Team members also act as ambassadors for the programs for their representative site.

In 2011, the team continued to work with the Wildlife Habitat Council, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Alberta Conservation Association regarding the design, construction and maintenance of nest boxes for birds on site. Remote cameras are also in place to study the movement of large mammals such as moose and deer across above-ground infrastructure.

Bird deterrent system

Protecting wildlife at Kearl
During project construction at Kearl, we are employing protective measures to keep wildlife away from areas that are unsafe or may attract them too close to workers. We have placed signage throughout the site to remind workers to work carefully in environmentally sensitive areas. We also timed tree clearing and construction activities so as to minimize impacts on wildlife and habitat.

Last spring, we began testing a state-of-the art waterfowl deterrent system at our Kearl site. The system includes 360-degree radar detection coverage extending to a range of two miles, a fully integrated tracking system and deterrent options including noise cannons, eye-safe lasers and long-range acoustical devices that use a variety of noises to deter birds. Our deterrent program will also employ a dedicated on-site team to operate the system. We believe this combination of technology and people will help Kearl provide the best level of bird detection and deterrence in industry.

We are also constructing a lake to replace the fish habitat that has been disrupted by development. In addition, we are relocating fish from existing habitat – a total of 10,800 small fish to date.

Collecting seeds for future land reclamation
To prepare for future reclamation at Kearl, we are participating in a seed collection program organized through the Canadian Oil Sands Network for Research and Development. The seed bank holds a diverse representation of tree and shrub seeds for use when reclaiming land disturbed by oil sands mining. To date, Imperial has collected enough seeds to grow approximately four million trees and shrubs and already planted more than 22,000 in reclaimed areas.

Conducting field studies in Beaufort Sea
In 2011, the Ajurak-Pokak joint venture continued to gather environmental data to better understand biodiversity and ecosystems in the potential project areas. The program, which started in 2008, includes evaluating the distribution of whales and polar bears, studying fish and zooplankton present in the water and monitoring life found on the seafloor of the lease area. Water and sediment quality in water depths of up to one kilometre deep were also studied to understand the baseline conditions in areas where our project may operate in the future.

Using low-impact technologies
In the Horn River Basin of northern British Columbia, we are creating narrow and meandering seismic cutlines to reduce the impact of our exploration activity to vegetation and wildlife.