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Research gives insight into restoration techniques

Research gives insight into restoration techniques

February 2021 - At Cenovus Energy, we develop land restoration plans before the first shovel hits the ground on any of our projects. Once our projects are complete and all the infrastructure and equipment have been removed, we begin the process of restoring the land to a state similar to its original condition. We are always looking for ways to build on and improve our land restoration processes and since 2017 Cenovus has been collaborating with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) to measure how carbon exchange is influenced by various restoration techniques. This collaboration has resulted in the recently published study: Restoration approach influences carbon exchange at in-situ oil sands exploration sites in east-central Alberta.

“In the past, the most common approach to forest reclamation was to leave the soil and let nature take its course. But in 2008 Cenovus became the first oil sands company to start testing active forest restoration,” explains Michael Cody, Environment Specialist at Cenovus. “This study builds on previous findings and examines how these techniques contribute to carbon emission reductions through accelerated forest regeneration.”

The research tested several restoration techniques across abandoned oil sands exploration sites including site preparation by mechanical mounding which involves heaping the soil in ‘mounds’ at regular intervals where trees are then planted.

“We found that the use of active site preparation increased tree productivity, and specifically that mounding will significantly help with tree growth leading to forest canopy closure,” says Cody. “Planting trees alone will contribute to carbon absorption through regular tree productivity, but it is slower and carries more survival risk compared to mounding and planting combined.”

The findings of this research have been published in Wetlands Ecology and Management and will be used to help oil sands companies with active restoration programs improve their techniques.  As part of our commitment to sustainability and minimizing our impact on the environment, we aim to continue participating in these reclamation improvement and emissions reduction programs.