Biodiversity technology & innovation

Before we begin work on any project, we develop a plan for how we’ll restore the site once our operations are finished. Once the entire project is complete and the equipment and infrastructure are removed, all the land we used will be reclaimed – including access roads, well pads and seismic lines.

We are always looking for ways to reduce our impact on land and wildlife and have set ambitious but achievable land and wildlife targets to help us build on our industry-leading land restoration and wildlife protection activities. Here are some examples of how we use technology and innovation to reduce the impact of our operations on the surrounding land and wildlife.

Improving the understanding of forest regeneration

For many years, the common industry practice for forest recovery was passive, leaving the soil as is and letting vegetation regenerate on its own. Recognizing this method made for a slow return to forest cover, in 2008 we became the first oil sands company to initiate research on the science of forest restoration. Since then, we have tested a range of techniques to facilitate the faster return of natural forest cover, and results from this research and testing have contributed to widespread change in practices across our sector. Using techniques such as mounding the soil for tree planting in wet areas and adding woody debris has helped accelerate restoration.

Did you know?
In some cases, these techniques have helped triple the rate of tree growth in areas under reclamation.

Amphibious vehicles and modernizing restoration equipment

Our amphibious excavation vehicles have modified tracks and an air-filled undercarriage that allow them to safely navigate through unfrozen muskeg to carry out reclamation activities with minimal environmental impact. Originally started as a pilot project with Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), these vehicles have allowed us to do reclamation activities year-round. The vehicles can work in soft soil and cross a creek without causing damage or stirring up sediment in the water. Learn more about this technology.

Caribou Habitat Restoration Project

In 2016, Cenovus announced its Caribou Habitat Restoration Project, which is the largest project of its kind in the world. This project is also associated with our Biodiversity target to restore more habitat than we use in the Cold Lake caribou range by year-end 2030, from a 2016 baseline. Habitat restoration is known to be a cornerstone in caribou recovery and Cenovus has chosen to take a leadership role on this Canada-wide issue. Since 2017, Cenovus has been collaborating with NAIT to measure how carbon exchange is influenced by various land restoration techniques. Learn more about this project.

Regional Industry Caribou Collaboration

Cenovus is a founding member of the Regional Industry Caribou Collaboration, a group of oil sands and forestry companies that work collaboratively to conduct science-based research, and monitor and implement landscape-level habitat restoration projects in five caribou ranges. Learn more about this project.

Prioritizing caribou habitat restoration

When we work with other companies to voluntarily restore caribou habitat in northeastern Alberta, we want to ensure we make the best decisions with respect to which areas are restored first. Through a project led by Cenovus, COSIA developed a method that considers the likelihood of resource development, habitat quality and linear density to rank townships according to restoration priority.

We also share what we learn with our peers to maximize our effectiveness through this recent study, informally called Restoration Prioritization 3.0. The study built upon previous research and examined disturbed habitat in five caribou ranges near COSIA members’ oil sands operations. Learn more about this project.

Boreal Ecological Recovery and Assessment project

An important part of reclamation is our ability to monitor and predict vegetation recovery and understand which practices are most effective in reclaiming and restoring land. We have begun using remote monitoring technologies to track growth and measure forest recovery sites, which promises to help reclaim land faster and to a better condition. In addition, we are conducting on the ground research of various soil, plant, and greenhouse gas responses to new restoration techniques to help inform the best restoration practices moving forward.


Together with several peer companies at COSIA, Cenovus is working with with OptiSeis Solutions Ltd. to test an innovative land footprint reduction technology called Eco-Seis. This software solution addresses a key challenge of seismic data acquisition, which historically required cutting narrow corridors through the boreal forest to transport and deploy geophysical survey equipment. Instead of cutting corridors, Eco-Seis enables seismic exploration with a zero or near zero footprint.