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'Roadless' reclamation helps to reduce cost and environmental impact

Roadless reclamation
A tracked vehicle working in northern Alberta to reclaim a well site

June 2017 - One of the main challenges we face in northern Alberta is that our oil and natural gas well sites are a long way from roads that are able to handle the heavy equipment needed when it comes time to reclaim them. Previously, this has meant building ice roads to reach these areas, resulting in increased costs as well as impact on the environment. But a new approach by our group responsible for well reclamation is helping to change that.

“We’re now using tracked vehicles to access our sites rather than building winter roads,” says Staff Abandonment & Liability Technologist, Teresa Utsunomiya. “We’ve reduced the need for large ice-capped roads, which is ideal for environmentally sensitive areas. This reduces the impact on areas where we access these locations, making it less disruptive to vegetation that has grown since the initial drilling,” says Teresa. “At the same time, it extends our work season and lowers our per unit costs.”

By using tracked equipment, we can work with heavier vehicles for a longer period of the year, contributing to a safer and more efficient operation by spreading out reclamation activity beyond a traditional winter work program that relied on ice roads. Teresa says that this approach from industry is encouraging equipment providers to invest in the specialized track equipment, including heavy duty skis and skids that can be strapped on to heavy vehicles, allowing their trucks and rigs to be used in remote access reclamation.

Once we’ve recovered as much oil as possible from a reservoir we must restore the land to a condition comparable to the untouched land around it, planting trees and other vegetation as needed. There will be a constant need to innovate when it comes to reclamation work as the industry seeks to improve environmental and financial performance.

We continually work to move sites towards receiving reclaimed certification. In 2016, we submitted 77 reclamation applications to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) for wells that were completed and received 246 reclamation certificates for areas that we had successfully restored to their original condition.