Cold Lake

One word describes why our Cold Lake operation exists today and is the longest running oil sands operation in Northeastern Alberta. Innovation.

Covering 780 square kilometres (about 300 square miles), Cold Lake is one of the largest thermal in situ operations in the world and supplies our Strathcona Refinery and refineries across Canada and the United States, so they can create the fuel, asphalt and products that keep life running.

What does thermal in situ mean? It means the bitumen here is too deep to be extracted by mining and we use heat to bring oil to the surface. It also means that oil here is produced with a land footprint similar to conventional oil.

Our environment. Our innovation.

They thought it couldn’t be done in the ‘60s. The oil was too deep to extract and in situ technology didn’t exist when we purchased the Cold Lake leases more than five decades ago. But we believed in the power of innovation. Today, after 45+ years of continuous production, Cold Lake continues to defy oil sands industry norms and produce more with less impact to the environment.

It all started with Cyclic Steam Stimulation, which we still use today. That’s a fancy way of saying we use steam to extract bitumen from 400 metres under the ground using a vertical well.

But we weren’t done innovating. In 2001, we invented LASER which reduced the use of steam. Less steam means less use of water, and less energy to heat the water we do use. This reduces our greenhouse gas intensity. We currently use LASER at 240 wells at Cold Lake.

We are also testing next-generation technologies here that reduce our water and energy use even more.

1.1 M tonnes

GHG emissions avoided thanks to cogeneration out of all our Alberta facilities, including Cold Lake. Approximately the equivalent of 232,000 passenger vehicles driven for one year or approximately 2,700 million miles driven by an average passenger vehicle.

180 megawatts

of power generation capacity produced through cogeneration at our Mahkeses and Nabiye sites since 2012 and 2015, respectively

165 megawatts

exported back to the Alberta grid in 2017

Clean air. Less emissions.

It’s not just in how we produce oil. Clean air relies on how we power our facilities and monitor our emissions.

Cogeneration: We generate more power than we need. So why not export that power back to the grid with two energy-saving cogeneration facilities which produce steam and electricity from the same fuel.

Air quality monitoring: we partner with Lakeland Industry and Community Association to monitor man-made and natural emissions in the air with four monitoring stations that provide up-to-the-minute measurements.

Less water everyday

Our technology has allowed us to reduce fresh water use intensity by 90 percent since the start of our operations. When we do use water, 95 percent of it is recycled water from the oil well or taken from deep underground.

This is how we reduce water today, but it only gets better from here. Our CSP technology, which will be used to extract oil out of certain reservoirs, requires almost no water at all.
Learn more

Reclaiming the land. Protecting wildlife.

We don’t just sprinkle a bag of grass seed over the site and call it a day. It’s about thoughtfully and progressively reclaiming the land we disturb with native trees and shrubs that are traditional to Indigenous culture and medicine.

That requires forethought and collaboration. We tap into the wisdom of Indigenous people who show us how everything in nature works together. We partner with other industry experts in our vegetation cooperative to collect native plant seeds in the area to be used in progressive reclamation projects.

Bears, foxes, owls are not an uncommon sight for our employees and contractors. We use critter cards to track and monitor wildlife on our sites and maintain our certification from the Wildlife Habitat Council, a group of conservation organizations dedicated to restoring and enhancing wildlife habitat.
“Imperial is committed to continuous improvement and our reclamation practices continue to evolve. As we learn, we continue to do better to ensure we meet our goal of Protecting Tomorrow Today”.
Tanya Hintz

Environmental and regulatory lead, Cold Lake

Our people

The future of oil sands is happening today at Cold Lake. Doing things differently, advancing new technology, protecting the environment, and engaging with communities – all these things require people with expertise, perseverance, and good old grit. Our 400 employees and 1,000 contractors are the muscle and minds behind what we do, and most come from the City of Cold Lake, or the MD and Town of Bonnyville. 

We set our teams up for success through training and development programs, mentorship and job rotation opportunities, along with networking programs that help our diverse people connect and grow professionally and technically. 

We are relentlessly focused on making sure our people go home safely every day. We look out for each other so Nobody Gets Hurt. 

Learn more about our commitment to safety.

Apply here

Learn more about what it would be like to work on our team and apply for positions.
Apply here

Our communities

It’s all about community. Strong communities are where we find great people and important perspectives. Our communities live in Cold Lake, and the MD or Town of Bonnyville, and include 12 First Nation and Métis communities.


Cold Lake is a mix of people who stay for generations and Canadians who come in across the country for work and opportunity. They’re friendly, welcoming and whether they’re here for a season or a reason, they look out for each other and the environment.


Our care for the communities begins with our ongoing communication and engagement – we inform, consult, and report back on what we’re doing. Always.

Our future

Our expansion project will include our SA-SAGD technology. Located within our CLO lease, 23 kilometres from Cold Lake and within the MD of Bonnyville No. 87, this project achieved regulatory approval to proceed in August 2018.

Contact us

General inquiries: 780-639-5111

Imperial media line: 587-476-7010

Emergency contact (24 hours): 780-639-5200

Mailing address:
Imperial Oil Resources - Cold Lake Operations
P.O. Box 1020
Bonnyville, AB
T9N 2J7

Jezelle Zatorski
Socioeconomic advisor - Indigenous community relations
Phone: 587.476.2939
Email: jezelle.m.zatorski@esso.ca

Latest information on our operation

We think our Mahihkan maintenance team might have a new mascot after this guy was spotted hanging around this week! Perhaps he's trying to pick up a few tricks of the trade as he prepares to chuck wood (if a woodchuck could chuck wood 😁). Thanks Nic...

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The Sandhill Cranes are back from their warm winter get-away and they are kar-r-r-r-o-o-o’ing up a storm. This loud feathered duo was spotted outside our Amisk building. Brandi captured this great 📷 after wondering what all the racket was about. Th...

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We’re officially in the hotel business! We recently installed two Barn Swallow hotels made from recycled polyester near our Nabiye Plant. Our hope is that these little guys will build their nests in the structures instead of nesting in plants or buil...

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At Imperial, our goal is that nobody gets hurt at work. To wrap up Emergency Preparedness Week, we’d like to give a big shout out to emergency responders, mutual aid organizations and those in command centre positions who work with our communities to...

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Who is ready for a snack? It’s that time of year again…we spotted a bear roaming near the V01 entrance. Just a friendly reminder to all you outdoor enthusiasts to be extra careful as our fury friends wake up from their winter slumber. 🐻 🐻 🐻

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Mental health can impact everyone and at Imperial, we care about our workforce and their families. This week for #MentalHealthWeek in Canada, the CMHA National / ACSM National is focusing on empathy and the importance of supporting others by allowing...

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