Land & reclamation
Land & reclamation
Canada’s oil sands are located beneath approximately 140,000 square kilometers of land. About 4,802 square kilometres or approximately three per cent of this area contain mineable deposits. Approximately 20 percent of these deposits are accessible via surface mining – the remainder is recoverable using in-situ techniques, which have a significantly smaller footprint.
Oil sands mining currently affects approximately 530 square kilometres – an area about half the size of the City of Edmonton. Reclamation is ongoing as oil sands operations are completed in a given area. So far, about 12 percent of the total mineable area that has been disturbed since the 1960s has been reclaimed, but most of these areas have not been submitted to the government for reclamation certification because they remain within the boundaries of active mining operations.
One area that has received reclamation certification from the Alberta government is Syncrude’s Gateway Hill. About 22 percent of Syncrude’s Mildred Lake site has been reclaimed since it began operations about 30 years ago. Reclamation is ongoing as land becomes available.
Imperial’s plans for our Kearl oil sands project include a major commitment to progressive land reclamation where land used early in the project will be reclaimed as mining is expanded to new areas. In developing our reclamation plans for Kearl, we have worked closely with neighbouring oil sands operations to make sure that drainage, reclamation and closure plans are integrated. We also continue to engage local stakeholders in reclamation planning so that reclaimed lands will provide improved wildlife capabilities and will be accessible for traditional land use by the local community.
Eighty percent of oil sands reserves will be developed in-situ which causes limited surface disturbance.
We have developed a megapad approach to reduce our surface footprint at our Cold Lake operation. This employs multiple wells drilled from a single surface location, enabling a smaller footprint, more efficient resource recovery and reduced development costs.
Updated plans for our Cold Lake Nabiye expansion include adopting a technology that will enable us to further reduce the number of well pads to access the resource and, as a result, reduce our surface disturbance by more than 40 percent.
We have an ongoing program to reclaim land impacted by the Cold Lake operation. So far, more than 1,500 acres, or 19 percent, of disturbed land have been permanently reclaimed. Over the last decade, land reclamation at the operation has included planting more than 800,000 trees and shrubs. The predominant species planted are white spruce, aspen, Jack pine, birch, willow and alder. All of these species are indigenous to the area.
Reclamation plans at our Cold Lake operation are designed to address local environmental ecosystems such as wetlands. We have recently teamed with Ducks Unlimited Canada on a pilot project to determine how best to restore the natural functions of a wetland when reclaiming a well site in the area. Early indications from ongoing monitoring have shown positive results with signs of re-vegetation.