Wood is transforming the reclamation process using an innovative model to yield the first Reclamation Certificate in Canada for oil sands exploration wellsites using remote sensing technology.

Oil sands closure activities are held to some of the most stringent environmental standards in the world. In fact, the Government of Alberta, Canada requires that companies remediate and reclaim 100% of the land disturbed during exploration.

Against the backdrop of a challenging year for the oil and gas industry, Wood and Imperial Oil partnered to further their progressive reclamation sustainability goals by reducing reclamation expenditure for oil sands exploration sites using leading-edge digital technologies that enable a resilient future. Traditional approaches require high-risk, time-intensive field data gathering using helicopters to inspect disturbed oil sands exploration sites for reclamation certification.  Wood improved the program by creating a remote sensing model to achieve rapid, safe, and reliable closure of environmental liabilities.

“Reclamation assessment using remote sensing technology has been a priority research initiative for the oil sands industry for many years. The successful application of this technology has advanced the field past the initial hurdles of scientific validity and regulatory acceptance. The ingenuity of our pioneering teams to think differently and seek new possibilities to solve this challenge has developed and successfully deployed a new digital solution to this long-standing objective,”

Joe Sczurko, Executive President of Wood’s Consulting business

The project focused on a group of 13 sites in the boreal forest northwest of Cold Lake, Alberta. The remote sensing model assessed the success of reclamation by providing quantitative data in the same level of detail or better than the traditional helicopter assessments. The assessments captured data on all regulatory requirements, including land cover types, woody species height and cover, bryophyte cover, and vegetation health. An additional species diversity assessment went a step beyond regulatory requirements to determine the number of plant species in the area, which cannot be determined from a visual helicopter assessment. Species diversity is an important indicator of ecosystem health for the fragile peatlands in the boreal forest. This additional information on the forest’s ecosystem health demonstrated that Wood’s innovative remote-sensing model was better at determining the success of reclamation than traditional methods.

“I was impressed by Wood’s capacity to innovate and solve a combination of complex and technically challenging problems. This was instrumental in getting the novel approach approved by the regulator and unlocked the full potential of the project.”

Edouard Hamel, Project Manager for Environmental & Property Solutions at Imperial Oil

Surveying fragile peatlands of the boreal forest is just the first step for this pioneering team. Their bold spirit already has them imagining the possibilities for this innovative model by refining it to assess croplands, native prairies, invasive species mapping, terrain stability analysis and more.

Get in touch to learn more about how this innovative model can solve your next assessment challenge and protect diverse ecosystems around the world.