Reclaiming the land where we work
June 2022 – Driven by a shared passion for sustainability, our team of self-proclaimed ‘reclamation geeks’ are helping limit our land disturbance through proactive reclamation of land at our operations. One area where the team is making a difference is the ongoing work to reclaim the land used for our Christina Lake borrow pits.
“What is a borrow pit? Simply put, it is an area of land where we “borrow” natural materials to help in our operations,” says Jason Desilets, Reclamation & Remediation Specialist at Cenovus Energy. “For our oil sands facilities like Christina Lake, dirt and clay are essential materials used to construct roads to access our sites and build well pads.”
When we are finished with a borrow pit, we are left with a disturbed area in need of reclamation – and this is where our team steps in to restore the land to a standard where it can support a healthy and functioning ecosystem.
This involves making the landscape suitable to support the growth of plant vegetation similar to that found in the surrounding area. At the end of this process, our work encourages the growth of plants and trees that are more desirable for wildlife – and has the added effect of helping contribute to the diversity of animals, insects, birds and other species in the area.
Currently, we have 13 borrow pits of various sizes that have been completely reclaimed and are in various stages of vegetation regrowth. There are two additional borrow pits that are partially reclaimed – but this process takes time.
“Active reclamation, which involves transferring large amounts of soil, can be a month-long process – depending on the size of the borrow pit,” explains Jason. “Once the area has been reclaimed, we have to wait until spring to plant the site with new trees and vegetation. We then spend the next three years monitoring the site for vegetation growth and weed control to ensure the proper plants to support the ecosystem are being established.”
Although reclamation involves a variety of steps and can take years to complete, our dedication to this process is what makes Cenovus stand out as an industry leader. Outside of our work with borrow pits, our target to restore more habitat than we have disturbed in the Cold Lake caribou range as part of our Caribou Habitat Restoration Project is the largest project of its kind in the world. The program involves restoring up to 4,000 kilometres of linear land disturbances and progressing our tree planting program.