Land use and biodiversity

We operate in a variety of ecosystems - some with sensitive characteristics. Our Upstream operations in particular can affect different wildlife areas, including foothills, prairie ecosystems and northern peatland areas.


Land use and biodiversity

Imperial carefully considers land use, biodiversity and ecosystem services in all aspects of our upstream operations, from new development planning to ongoing operations and reclamation.  

For our major projects, we identify and evaluate environmental, social and health risks and opportunities through the Environmental, Social and Health Impact Assessment (ESHIA) process. Also, biodiversity and ecosystem services are taken into account during the Environmental Aspects Assessment and Environment Business Planning processes. Through these tools we look at factors such as minimizing footprint in sensitive environments, the rarity of individual species, their roles in different ecosystems and habitats, their vulnerabilities and their cultural significance.

We minimize our surface footprint for new facilities through careful planning, re-use of existing disturbances and progressive reclamation throughout the life of a project. 

Biodiversity – a term used to describe the variety of life on earth and includes the diversity of ecosystems and living organisms

Ecosystem services – the direct and indirect benefits people obtain from the environment such as food, water, shelter, clean air and cultural identity

Supporting biodiversity initiatives

In addition to the application of tools that improve our understanding of local biodiversity conditions and ecosystem services in areas where we operate, we support research and collaborative efforts to conserve and monitor biological resources.

  • Imperial is a founding member of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), an industry group focused on improvements in environmental performance in Canada’s oil sands through collaborative action and innovation. One key focus area for COSIA is to reduce the footprint intensity and impact of oil sands operations on the land and wildlife.
  • Imperial is a member of the Regional Industry Caribou Collaboration (RICC), which is a group of energy and forestry companies that contribute to conservation of caribou and restoration of their habitat through collaborative range-based efforts. RICC is intended to coordinate caribou habitat restoration in priority areas and support scientific research on caribou ecology and caribou-predator-landscape relationships.
  • Imperial is a member of COSIA’s Early Successional Wildlife Dynamics (ESWD) program, a research initiative that studies the ability of reclaimed upland habitats to promote the return to, and use of, previously disturbed habitats by wildlife.
  • We support monitoring of rare species such as the yellow rail at our Kearl oil sands operations through the deployment of Automated Recording Units (ARUs). Recording the vocalizations of birds and amphibians helps determine the presence or absence of rare vocal species and better understand the habitats in which these species are found.  
  • Imperial originally obtained Wildlife at Work certification from the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) for our commitment to enhance wildlife habitat and promote wildlife awareness – first at Cold Lake in 2010 and at Kearl in 2012. Both sites continue to be recertified every two or three years, the most recent being 2018. The WHC is an international non-profit organization that works with conservation groups and business to promote wildlife habitat enhancement and education programs in the workplace. This certification recognizes that our wildlife programs have gone above and beyond regulations, especially in promoting wildlife awareness among employees and the community.  
  • We built a compensation lake at Kearl known as Muskeg Lake, to replace the fish habitat that has been disrupted by mining activities. This lake, which is connected to adjacent Kearl Lake, is deep enough to allow fish to over-winter.

Caribou habitat restoration

Imperial is committed to working with the Government of Alberta in caribou range plan implementation. We believe that energy resources can be developed responsibly, in a manner that supports caribou habitat restoration and enables the recovery of caribou populations. Key actions that we have been supportive of include: restoration of legacy seismic lines in priority areas, mandatory integrated land management within the energy sector and between sectors, and tenure flexibility to enable orderly development and reduce near-term footprint.

Imperial has been supporting science-based and collaborative research and restoration projects through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) and was one of the founding members of the Regional Industry Caribou Collaboration. In 2016, Imperial was a partner in the Cenovus-led South LiDea project in the Cold Lake Caribou Range that restored 204 kilometres of seismic lines.

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