Land Use and Reclamation
- 390 reclamation certificates from provincial regulators, 99% approval rate
- 761 acres of new development, 2,088 acres certified
- 80,000 trees removed for new development, 542,640 trees planted on 247 sites
- Area Based Closure program received Environmental Services Association of Alberta Industry Award
- Remediation techniques in Rainbow Lake area received CRIN’s Novel Land and Wellsite Reclamation Innovation Award
- Manage land use through mitigation and restoration, and avoidance of disturbance.
We strive to avoid disturbing the land before we begin operations and restore the land when we cease operations. From planning to an asset’s retirement, we identify potential impacts so they can be avoided, minimized or mitigated.
Biodiversity and Ecosystems
Our operations have potential impacts to aquatic and terrestrial habitats, and the biodiversity these ecosystems support. Our Corporate Biophysical Standard outlines expectations about how we manage and conserve biodiversity, including sensitive species and habitats, invasive species and avoiding human wildlife conflict.
Our biodiversity initiatives, which support UN SDG 15: Life on Land, include:
- Wildlife management plans
- Protocols related to aquatic invasive species, clubroot and whirling disease awareness and management
- Migratory bird pre-construction mitigation procedure
- Oiled wildlife response plans
- Wildlife deterrent guidance
- Regional biodiversity monitoring programs
We manage our construction and development activities to minimize our footprint, maintain healthy, functioning ecosystems and the wildlife and habitat they support, and reduce our impact on ecologically and culturally-sensitive areas, using the existing footprint where possible.
Before obtaining approval for a regulatory application, we conduct a pre-disturbance environmental evaluation, following our policies and government regulations. We identify sensitive species and critical habitats, as well as culturally sensitive areas, with input from local Indigenous communities and their traditional knowledge studies. We flag potential sensitive habitats, or areas with sensitive species during initial desktop analysis, then confirm through field surveys. These include identifying wildlife features such as mineral licks, raptor nests and active dens, before clearing land or starting construction. If a sensitive wildlife feature is identified, we work with the regulator to apply appropriate setbacks to minimize any disturbance. Appropriate mitigations are put in place to minimize any potential impacts and provide for low-impact placement of new facilities.
Activities such as vegetation clearance and ground preparation are scheduled to minimize the risk of disturbing wildlife particularly during sensitive periods, including migratory and breeding windows. Nest surveys and setback distances from active nests are also applied along with deterrents to keep birds from high-risk areas and prevent nesting on infrastructure.
Research and Collaboration
Scientific research and collaboration are important to increase our understanding of habitat and biodiversity. We fund and/or participate in regional initiatives and industry committees that contribute directly or indirectly to species and habitat research, monitoring and mitigation, consistent with recognized priorities and regulations.
We support initiatives that improve our understanding of biodiversity conditions in the areas we operate. For example, our collaborative effort with Saskatchewan Polytechnic focuses on the endangered lake sturgeon population in the North Saskatchewan River. Research will use ultrasound technology to monitor the lake sturgeon’s reproduction and the availability of spawning habitat. Insights gained will have significant conservation value, allowing Husky and our peers to be more aware of, and mitigate, potential impacts to lake sturgeon.
In the Atlantic region, working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Atlantic Salmon Federation, we have deployed receivers at our White Rose field to track the migratory routes of salmon.
Part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Authorization for the North Saskatchewan River water intake included a condition to offset the loss of habitat caused by the construction and operation of the intake. Offsetting measures included willow live-staking of riparian habitat for bank stabilization, preventing further degradation of the bank by using fencing to keep cattle away and using cobble and gravel substrate for stabilization and spawning habitat. We will conduct long-term monitoring of the intake system for potential impacts to fish, as well as the effect of the offsetting measures.
We continue to monitor habitat while operating, managing surface water through the use of containment systems to prevent soil erosion and help prevent water quality impacts. Vegetation control is used to inhibit the spread of weeds and minimize fire hazards. Our 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.
Wildlife monitoring plans are prepared and implemented to ensure mitigations are effective, in accordance with regulations. Monitoring results are reviewed and used to improve our mitigation programs. We use enhanced regional monitoring programs where biodiversity is particularly sensitive, observing trends by tracking the presence and movement of animals using wildlife cameras and winter tracking studies, point counts and breeding bird surveys to provide long term trending data. In the Atlantic region, as part of our Environmental Assessment commitment, we conduct seabird observations three times a day.
To accelerate the reclamation timetable when feasible, 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. Area Based Closure (ABC) is a program-based approach that makes asset retirement activities more efficient and cost effective. Larger and neighbouring areas are addressed 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 have shared the ABC approach with our peers to assist with better management of inactive sites liability for all of industry. The program exceeds regulatory requirements for abandonment, remediation and reclamation of inactive sites, reducing the risk of orphaned wells.
This aligns with the UN SDG 15: to protect, restore and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
The ABC approach includes:
- Well abandonment
- Facility decommissioning
- Pipeline abandonment
- Site remediation and reclamation
In contrast to the historic approach, the efficiency and concentrated efforts within the ABC program allow Husky to complete more asset retirement activities. We track progress against the plan, key progress updates, milestone achievements, major risks and mitigation measures and significant regulatory changes that may impact the business. Our annual spending includes onshore and offshore asset retirement activities.
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.
In 2019 Husky abandoned more than 1,100 wells in Western Canada. Many of these wells were part of ABC programs, which led to a faster reclamation process in the majority of our operating areas. The number of wells abandoned was more than three times the number of wells drilled. In 2020 we will be reducing the number of well abandonments to focus on reclamation work at previously abandoned well sites, to restore land to its native state.
Properly abandoning inactive pipelines reduces the risk of spills from those segments. The inactive pipelines are first assessed, including length, the product it contained, whether there is pressure on the line and its proximity to development or environmentally sensitive areas.
By abandoning multiple segments in an area as a single project, using the ABC approach, we reduce ground disturbance and associated activities. An improvement to the technology used to remove risers has also resulted in the need for less excavation.
In 2014 we began working with the Alberta Energy Regulator to develop a five-year plan to tackle our inventory of 1,976 inactive pipeline segments in the province, and this work was successfully completed in 2019.
From 2015 through 2019, the Alberta Energy Regulator approved status changes to "abandoned" for more than 4,000 pipeline segments, representing more than 3,900 kilometres of pipeline.
Remediation and Reclamation
Remediation involves assessing the site for environmental impacts due to operational activities and mitigating any that are found. In 2019 we conducted 2,264 remediation assessments to move sites towards reclamation, where disturbed land is returned to a capability equivalent to before development.
Following initial reclamation the site is monitored until it meets regulatory criteria, when an application for regulatory closure can be submitted. The average time from initial reclamation to site closure for a well is five years. For some ABC areas we have been successful in achieving site closure within one year.
In 2019 we received 390 reclamation certificates from provincial regulators, with a 99% approval rate on submissions. This accounted for 12% of certificates issued in the province of Alberta and represented 10% of Husky’s inventory of sites ready for reclamation. We certified 2,088 acres in 2019, compared to new development on approximately 761 acres. Over the past eight years, we have certified almost 2,400 sites and associated facilities, such as access roads and log decks, reclaiming approximately 9,600 acres of land.
Our tree planting program supports UN SDG 15.2: promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally. We planted 542,640 trees on 247 sites in 2019, using species native to the area to re-establish similar land capability, including white and black spruce, lodgepole and jack pine, larch, poplar, dogwood and willow. Approximately 80,000 trees were cleared for new development in 2019. We anticipate the number of trees planted will decline in the next few years as planned well abandonments shift from primarily forested areas to cultivated land. Over the past 11 years we have planted more than two million trees on our reclaimed assets.
Returning land to equivalent capacity involves restoring habitat, especially for species at risk, and supports UN SDG 15.5, which includes halting the loss of biodiversity. Of the areas we certified in 2019, almost all were in regions that are home to species on Environment Canada’s Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) list. These include wolverines, northern leopard frogs, bison, bullsnakes, Great Plains toads, grizzly bears, ferruginous hawks and monarch butterflies. More than 15% of the areas certified is woodland caribou habitat. Caribou is an umbrella species for boreal forest biodiversity, where other species that share the same habitat requirements benefit from the reclamation and restoration work.
When we determine a facility has no future production value, it is designated for retirement. We have a range of facility sizes in our asset base and strive to decommission all in a safe, orderly, timely and cost- effective manner. Options to manage surface equipment and other infrastructure depend on the scale and location of the facility. When developing a site decommissioning plan, we make every effort to re-use, sell, transfer, salvage and recycle, before sending items to the landfill.
In 2019 we abandoned and removed equipment from more than 550 well sites and completed decommissioning and demolition of 13 major facilities. Nearly 100% of all metal, totalling more than 8,500 tonnes of steel, tin, aluminum and copper, was recycled at local scrap metal recycling facilities. Hazardous materials, including asbestos, were safely contained, removed and disposed of prior to demolition, in accordance with occupational health and safety regulations and disposal requirements. Construction and demolition waste, which comprised less than 10% of total waste, was disposed of in local landfills. By using local facilities, and re-using materials locally, we reduced the transportation fuel and related trucking emissions associated with disposal.
We work with specialized vendors to ensure efficient sorting, processing and handling of waste materials to obtain the highest value possible for our scrap metal recycling. For large-scale demolition activities our vendor selection process includes criteria that specifically address these capabilities and we implement steel credit programs to provide an incentive to maximize the volume of recycled waste.