Biodiversity is the variety of life in a particular habitat or ecosystem. Oil and natural gas development can affect biodiversity in a number of ways, including disruption of habitat by clearing land, making predator movement easier through travel corridors or degrading the quality of the habitat.

When planning their projects, oil and natural gas companies strive to avoid sensitive habitats and protected areas, optimize the area needed for well sites, work with other land users to reduce the disturbance footprint by sharing roads and pipelines and employ technologies to minimize emissions.

During the construction, operation and abandonment phases of a project, companies follow wildlife plans that describe how and when sites are accessed or when routine operations are conducted both on and off shore. For example, work may be rescheduled to avoid mating, nesting or migration seasons. Companies also maintain site hygiene to deter animals, and use deterrence tools and programs to keep wildlife from harm. If a company's operations are in areas subject to management plans or emergency orders, companies make changes to ensure that prohibited activities are discontinued.

In order to support landscape level efforts to manage biodiversity, companies also:

  • Participate in multi-stakeholder land use strategies
  • Fund environmental monitoring programs
  • Invest in industry research

Invasive species

Being a good neighbour requires the management of invasive species. When invasive species become established in a new habitat, they may threaten other segments of the economy (crop values for agriculture, by-catch for fisheries) and cause irreversible changes to the ecosystem by out-competing native species and threaten biodiversity.

Oil and gas companies are expected to manage invasive species on work sites and to implement programs to prevent the transport and spread of invasive species on construction equipment.

Members in Action

Arctic Grayling habitat enhancement and monitoring project

Canadian Natural Resources Limited (Canadian Natural) created the first compensation lake in the oil sands region. Horizon Lake, also known by its Cree name Wapan Sakahikan, represents a unique alternative to address environmental impacts to fish habitat. Developed in close consultation with local people and with Aboriginal traditional knowledge incorporated in many aspects of its design, Horizon Lake is today a self-sustaining ecosystem with native fish species growing and populating the ecosystem.

Canadian Natural has pursued improvements to the ecological value of required compensation through habitat enhancement for Arctic Grayling, a regionally sensitive fish. This project involved applying innovative measures to increase species population in a lake/river habitat and to monitor the project's success through the measurement of species abundance and habitat use.

Canadian Natural is sharing the learnings and data from our experience with Horizon Lake to stakeholders and other operators for their compensation of lost fish habitat.

Managing impacts to wildlife near in situ oil sands operations

Devon Canada has oil sands interests in northeast Alberta in two actively operating projects (Jackfish 1 and 2), one approved project near completion (Jackfish 3) and one project in the approval stage (Pike 1). Impacts to wildlife, biodiversity and land are major topics of interest for stakeholders of these projects, and Devon is proactively addressing them through its In Situ Oil Sands Wildlife Mitigation and Monitoring Program.

Devon's program is a multi-pronged commitment to monitor wildlife populations, conduct environmental research to fill key data gaps and mitigate negative impacts to biodiversity in and around project areas. The program has been endorsed by regulators as best in industry for such initiatives, and comprises five key elements:

  • Wildlife mitigation commitments
  • Long-term wildlife mitigation and monitoring program
  • Regional caribou collaboration and research program
  • BearSmart practices
  • Innovative wildlife inventory techniques for remote areas and hard-to-detect species

Learnings from the program have enabled Devon to improve its performance in predicting, reducing and mitigating impacts to wildlife.

Pilot Project Testing Restoration Techniques in Woodland Caribou Habitat

The Algar Habitat Restoration Pilot Project was initiated by Nexen and funding partners in 2011 under the Oil Sands Leadership Initiative (OSLI) which has since joined Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA). COSIA is an alliance of Oil Sands producers focused on accelerating the pace of improvement in environmental performance in Canada's Oil Sands through collaborative action and innovation.

The purpose of the Project is to test multiple restoration techniques on legacy linear disturbance within an area of critical woodland caribou habitat in the Oil Sands. The process piloted for the Project has been shared with COSIA members in planning subsequent habitat restoration programs and includes: a regulatory process, land user engagement examples, revegetation treatments, and operational learnings. In addition, a vegetation monitoring program is underway and a wildlife monitoring plan has been developed to determine the effectiveness of the restoration work on woodland caribou and other wildlife.