Oil and natural gas activity has an impact on the land - seismic operations, access roads, wells, pipelines and facilities all contribute to industry's footprint in a region. Oil sands mines and tailings ponds also impact the landscape. Our challenge is to reduce the size and duration of our footprint in order to maintain the biodiversity and to support the function of natural ecosystems.
At the project planning stage, companies look for opportunities to avoid sensitive habitats, minimize the surface area needed and work with other users to reduce land footprint. This includes locating roads in such a manner that they can be shared by multiple operators. In addition, the use of multi-well pads in unconventional and in situ operations greatly reduces surface footprint relative to individual well sites. Through project closure, companies strive to achieve timely reclamation and restoration.
Throughout a project, oil and natural gas companies work with numerous stakeholders, including Aboriginal peoples, local communities, governments and landowners, to understand and address concerns about the project and its potential impact on the community, the land and biodiversity.
As an industry, we are focused on the application of the mitigation hierarchy to avoid, minimize or mitigate risks to sensitive environmental values and environmental performance throughout the project lifecycle.
Abandonment and reclamation
Once an oil or natural gas well is no longer productive, regulations require the operator to abandon the well and reclaim the site. Liability management programs associated with abandonment are designed to protect the public from significant environmental issues and costs associated with oil and natural gas sites.
Oil and natural gas activity occurs in diverse landscapes that are home to many species of plants and animals, including species at risk and invasive species. The management of biodiversity is guided by the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy, the federal Species at Risk Act and Invasive Alien Species Strategy for Canada and an array of provincial policy and legislation.
Monitoring and applied research
Canada's oil and natural gas industry demonstrates continuous improvement in environmental performance by fully understanding the extent of our impact on surface land values through monitoring, and to invest in technologies and best practices to reduce those impacts. Operators in Canada support sound scientific data collection and are collaborating with each other, with government, communities and scientists to achieve this objective.
Today, the leading source of information for industry on species health is the Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Program (JOSM). While this program is unique to the Athabasca region, the Alberta government is moving to establish monitoring across the province. The information we have today is limited to the lower Athabasca region, so we continue to work with governments in all our operating areas to enhance species monitoring and understanding.
In addition, industry provides financial support to many research funds to enable continual improvement in applied research on technologies and practices to improve environmental performance for land and biodiversity. Examples include: