To offset the industry's impacts on air, water and land,
companies invest millions of dollars in programs and technologies
that help reduce their environmental footprint.
New technologies such as the ones described below have allowed
industry operators to reduce their emissions and fuel use. These
improvements are not only good news for the environment, but also
have a positive impact on the bottom line.
- Solar-powered pumps installed on rigs
and well heads reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
capture and storage technologies send this greenhouse gas back
underground and keep it safely out of the air.
- In oil sands operations, using hydrotransport
instead of trucks to get the bitumen to the upgrading facility
significantly reduces the fuel used in this process.
- Fugitive emissions (small natural gas
leaks from processing facilities) are being detected and tested,
and the emissions sources are being repaired quickly and
Water plays an important role in the oil and gas industry. For
example, water is used to help recover the bitumen from oil sands
and to improve the production of conventional wells.
The industry's water usage has been monitored, licensed and
regulated for decades. Large users of water must apply for a
license to divert either surface or groundwater. In Alberta,
Canada's busiest petroleum province, petroleum companies are
allocated only 7.2% of the water that is licensed for diversion
each year. Comprehensive measuring shows that industry uses less
than half of that allocation.
Petroleum companies are always seeking new ways to reduce their
use of fresh water, and to use - and reuse - water more
efficiently. Approximately 90% of the water used in major oil and
gas projects is continually recycled and reused. Groundwater
testing is commonplace, particularly in natural gas from coal
(coalbed methane) areas.
By law, companies starting new projects must hire biologists and
environmental specialists to assess any risks and prevent damage.
In addition, before any work is started, archaeologists check
leased areas of activity for signs of past inhabitation that must
be protected. In some locations, field employees are even asked to
keep an eye out for dinosaur tracks!
The seismic sector uses low impact seismic
techniques to reduce land disruption. Helicopters are used instead
of trucks to transport people and equipment. Seismic lines are cut
as narrow as possible, often by hand. Seismic lines are cut
unevenly to avoid trees and ensure predators have no clear line of
site to their prey. Trees and brush are mulched to become
fertilizer for new growth.
To reduce their land use for their operations, companies make
use of refined equipment and mining techniques, share roads with
the logging industry and use new technology such as directional drilling.
The less we disrupt the land at the start of a project, the more
quickly we can return the area to its natural state when the job is
Companies are responsible for reclaiming any land that was
disturbed by wells, access roads, pipelines or other related
activities. Reclamation activities include replacing saved topsoil
and replanting trees and local vegetation. Some companies even
create interpretive trails through reclaimed areas.
In all stages of a project, companies also strive to minimize
their effect on wildlife. Some projects protect caribou habitat and
migration paths, reintroduce animals (such as the wood buffalo) to
an area, create habitats for fish, birds and animals, and alter
project plans to minimize risk to native animal populations like
the grizzly bear. Some companies fund scientific research projects,
bird and mammal surveys and species at risk listings and maps.
For more environmental information,