We strive to avoid disturbing the land before we begin operations and remediate and restore the land when our operations cease. From planning to an asset’s retirement, we identify potential impacts so they can be avoided, minimized or mitigated.
Our construction and development activities are managed so that we minimize our footprint, maintain healthy, functioning ecosystems, and the wildlife and habitat they support, and reduce our impact on ecologically and culturally-sensitive areas. We identify wildlife and culturally-sensitive areas with input from local Indigenous communities and their traditional land use studies. In addition, biologists assess the presence and sensitivity of known species within the project area. Desktop analysis, confirmed through field surveys, helps us avoid features such as mineral licks, raptor nests and active dens. Our planning also considers sensitive wildlife areas such as amphibian ranges, riparian complexes and known rare plant colonies.
These steps address changes to wildlife movement, reducing the displacement of animals and birds to less suitable habitat, and maintaining vegetation cover, which is important for survival and temperature regulation.
We time activities, such as vegetation clearance and ground preparation, to reduce the risk of disturbing an area during sensitive periods for wildlife, including migratory and breeding windows. If activities are conducted at these times, measures to mitigate impacts, such as changes to the construction schedule, nest surveys and setback distances from active nests are implemented. Deterrents are in place to keep birds from high-risk areas and prevent nesting on infrastructure.
Our workers observe the presence of local wildlife to better understand habitat use and to assess any impact from operations so mitigation measures can be put in place. In some areas, regional wildlife biodiversity monitoring programs observe trends by tracking the presence and movement of animals using wildlife cameras, and the use of winter tracking studies, point counts and breeding bird surveys.
We manage surface water on lease, including the use of containment systems, to prevent soil erosion and to help prevent a release from migrating off-site. Vegetation control inhibits the spread of weeds and minimizes fire hazards. Husky’s waste tracking system monitors and verifies the type and volume of waste generated, how it is handled and whether it is disposed of, treated or recycled.
To accelerate the reclamation timetable, work is undertaken on lands no longer required for operations, even if the project is ongoing. Progressive reclamation allows for work to begin sooner to return land to its pre-disturbance condition and reduce maintenance costs.
End of Life and Asset Retirement
When we cease operations at a well or facility, the asset must be retired in a responsible manner. We pioneered Area-Based Closure (ABC), a program-based approach that makes asset retirement activities more efficient and cost effective. We address larger and neighbouring areas at the same time, starting remediation work and the restoration of land and habitat more quickly.
With the support of the Alberta Energy Regulator, we share the ABC approach with our peers to assist with better management of inactive sites liability for all of industry. Our asset retirement obligations are calculated and disclosed on a quarterly basis, complying with financial reporting regulations. This allows us to better estimate our obligations and account for appropriate financial resources related to abandonment, reclamation and remediation activities.
The ABC approach includes:
- Well abandonment
- Pipeline and facility decommissioning
- Site remediation and reclamation
The process of retiring a well begins with properly abandoning both the downhole and surface components. Our long-term, proactive abandonment program leads to the timely and effective retirement of inactive sites that have no future production potential. We abandon multiple wells in a single area, which allows for a coordinated effort to decommission associated pipelines and facilities.
Pipeline and Facility Decommissioning
When we determine a facility has no future production value, it is designated for retirement. We look at options to re-use, sell or recycle before a disposal decision is made, ensuring less waste is put into landfills.
In 2018, we undertook the demolition of four large-scale facilities:
- 100% of the concrete (more than 9,800 tonnes) was recycled or re-used in local construction projects.
- 100% of all metal, including steel, tin, aluminum and copper (almost 5,500 tonnes), was recycled.
- Hazardous materials were safely contained, removed and disposed of.
- Construction and demolition waste, less than five percent of total waste, went to local landfills.
- Using local facilities and re-using materials close to where the projects were located meant transporting the items a shorter distance, resulting in the use of less fuel and fewer emissions.
Properly abandoning inactive pipelines reduces the risk of spills from those segments. The inactive pipelines are first assessed, including length, which product it contained, whether there is pressure on the line and its proximity to towns or environmentally sensitive areas.
By abandoning multiple segments in an area as a single project, we reduce ground disturbance and associated activities. An improvement to the technology we use to remove risers has also resulted in the need for less excavation.
From 2015 through 2018, the Alberta Energy Regulator approved status changes to abandoned for 3,300 pipeline segments, representing more than 3,000 kilometres of pipeline. In 2014 we began working with the regulator to develop a five-year plan to tackle our inventory of 1,976 inactive pipeline segments in the province. We expect to complete full abandonment of those lines, as well as any new inactive pipeline segments in Western Canada, in 2019.
Remediation and Reclamation
Once all surface infrastructure is removed, we begin remediation and reclamation activities. Remediation involves assessing the site for impacts due to operations and mitigating any that are found. Reclamation involves returning disturbed lands to a capability equivalent to that prior to development.
After we initially reclaim the site we conduct follow-up work as needed. When a site is deemed ready, a detailed site assessment is conducted and we can apply for regulatory closure. The average time from initial reclamation to site closure is 5.8 years. With the ABC program, we are targeting time frames of less than four years.
In 2018 we received 320 reclamation certificates from provincial regulators, with a 94% approval rate on submissions. Over the past seven years, we have certified almost 2,000 sites and associated facilities, such as access roads and log decks, reclaiming approximately 7,520 acres of land.
We planted 360,000 trees on more than 175 sites, as part of our 2018 ABC program. Species native to the area, including white and black spruce, lodgepole and jack pine, larch, poplar, aspen and alder, are planted to re-establish similar land capability. Over the past 10 years, we have planted more than 1.5 million trees.
A key component of reclaiming a site is restoring habitat, especially for species at risk. Of the areas we certified in 2018, almost all were in regions home to species listed on Environment Canada’s Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). These include woodland caribou, wolverines, northern leopard frogs, boreal toads, bullsnakes, monarch butterflies and flora such as the smooth goosefoot.
Of the land we received site closure certificates for in 2018, meaning the land had been returned to its pre-development state, almost one-quarter is woodland caribou habitat. Caribou are an umbrella species for boreal forest biodiversity, with other species that share the same habitat requirements benefitting from the reclamation and restoration work.