Land use and biodiversity
Imperial operates in a variety of ecosystems, some with sensitive characteristics. We strive to limit the impacts of our operations, working to conserve and restore land and biodiversity through progressive reclamation and habitat restoration.
We carefully consider land use and biodiversity in all aspects of our operations, from new development planning to ongoing operations and reclamation. Through our environmental aspects and business planning processes, we consider factors such as avoiding and minimizing our footprint in sensitive environments, the rarity of individual species – their vulnerabilities and cultural significance, and areas of importance to Indigenous communities. We work with Indigenous communities in the areas in which we operate to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into our project plans.
In areas of high biodiversity, we follow a mitigation hierarchy,1 a decision-making process that helps us avoid, minimize, restore and, in cases of disturbance to fisheries habitat, offset impacts. Currently, none of Imperial’s operating sites are located near protected areas.
Incorporating Indigenous traditional knowledge
Prior to progressing major projects we engage with local Indigenous communities to understand areas of cultural and traditional significance, facilitate traditional land use studies and integrate traditional knowledge into our project execution plans. We work with communities, providing maps of our proposed project footprints that can be overlaid with traditional knowledge data so that where possible, areas of cultural and traditional significance can be avoided.
In 2021, during the planning stages of the Cold Lake SAGD development, Imperial conducted field visits with Indigenous communities to inspect the proposed footprint, walk the landscape to identify site specific concerns and areas of cultural and traditional importance and facilitate dialogue around project design and potential impacts to the land in order to develop solutions together.
In Ontario, we recently completed the installation of a 63-kilometre pipeline to replace the Sarnia Products Pipeline, which transports fuel products from our Sarnia refinery to the Greater Toronto area. For three years before breaking ground, we engaged Indigenous monitors and archaeologists to provide technical input while we worked to plan the pipeline right-of-way.
During this process, an archaeological site was identified and instead of removing and preserving artifacts, the local Indigenous communities’ preference was to leave the site undisturbed. We used horizontal directional drilling to install the pipeline underneath the site leaving it intact and resulting in the longest directional drill ever completed in Canada. We also used horizontal directional drilling in other environmentally sensitive areas along the route to avoid disturbance and preserve biodiversity.
Wildlife monitoring innovation
Mitigating impacts to wildlife from our operations relies on effective monitoring tools. In 2021, we focused on using digital tools to improve our wildlife monitoring programs which inform our wildlife management plans. Digital dashboards enable the use of real-time data from wildlife sweeps conducted prior to tree clearing and land disturbance, allowing us to react faster and help prevent wildlife from denning in areas to be disturbed or to ensure when wildlife or nests are observed, sufficient buffers are in place to prevent disturbance.
Imperial supports land management programs that enhance wildlife habitats and provide community outreach and education programs. Cold Lake and Kearl have wildlife habitat management programs, certified by Wildlife Habitat Council that recognize our efforts that go above and beyond regulatory requirements. We are also a member of the Regional Industry Caribou Collaborative (RICC) where members are focused collectively on conserving caribou and restoring habitat and we work closely with COSIA to share restoration and reclamation best practices and reduce impacts to wildlife.
In 2021, Imperial joined the Boreal Ecosystem Recovery and Assessment (BERA) project, a multi-sectoral research partnership with the goal of better understanding the effects of industrial disturbance on natural ecosystem dynamics and develop strategies for restoring disturbed landscapes.
1Mitigation Hierarchy Guide – CSBI.