Oil Sands Reclamation: 20+ Photos of Reclaimed Oil Sands

Oil Sands Reclamation: 20+ Photos of Reclaimed Oil Sands

What does oil sands reclamation look like? That's a good question, and an important one to answer.

Canada’s oil sands has been the number one target of many special interest and environmental groups looking to de-market and discount Canadian oil by preventing it from getting to world consumers.

One of the ways these groups smear the industry is by using pictures of open pit mines and tailings ponds in blogs and articles, giving off an impression to the unknowing viewer that is how the entirety of Alberta's oil sands is developed.

It’s no surprise they skip the photos of in-situ operations and reclaimed oil sands sites, because those photos show environmentally progressive and responsible development which doesn’t fit their narrative.

major oil sands producer reclaims over 800 hectares of land in 2018

Unfortunately, pictures of oil sands mining operations are sometimes even used by local newspapers in Albertan municipalities from time-to-time to represent the oil patch as a whole. This is surprising considering that:

  • Only 3% of Alberta’s oil sands land surface area can be mined
  • The remaining 97% can only be developed using in-situ methods like steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) with minimal land disturbances
  • Only 20% of reserves are shallow enough to be extracted via mining operations
  • In-situ extraction represents 53% of current oil sands production

You would think a newspaper in Alberta would use photos for oil sands-related articles which would better represent the majority of potential land area development, like this one of a Cenovus SAGD operation at Christina Lake:

Cenovus Christina Lake SAGD Operation Cenovus - Christina Lake SAGD operation

This picture paints a much more appropriate image of what most development looks like. Also, as in-situ methods are projected to be used more extensively in the years to come, it gives us a glimpse at most future development as well.

Oil Sands Reclamation is Required

A major oil sands producer has reclaimed thousands of hectares of land since 2010

Speaking of in-situ operations, they create about 10 to 15% of the land disturbance when compared to mining, and must be reclaimed. All land disturbed by mining operations also must be reclaimed, as required by the Alberta Energy Regulator.

Oil sands development is subject to some of the strictest environmental regulatory standards in the world. Full 100% reclamation is required, meaning that the land used by industry is returned to a “self-sustaining ecosystem with local vegetation and wildlife.”

So what exactly does oil sands reclamation look like? Here are several pictures of reclaimed oil sands, as well as reclamation in the process from various energy companies in Alberta:

20+ Photos of Oil Sands Reclamation

Gateway Hill - Syncrude certified reclaimed oil sands land area

Syncrude - Gateway Hill, certified reclaimed oil sands land


Bill's Lake - oil sands reclamation site

Syncrude - Bill's Lake, oil sands reclamation site


Syncrude - Mildred Lake - before reclamation

Syncrude - Mildred Lake - before reclamation

Mildred Lake - reclaimed oil sands mine

Syncrude - Mildred Lake - after reclamation


Suncor - Nikanotee Fen - reclaimed oil sands land

Suncor - Nikanotee Fen - oil sands reclamation site


Suncor - Nikanotee Fen - oil sands reclamation site

Suncor - Nikanotee Fen - oil sands reclamation site (COSIA)


Suncor - Wapisiw Lookout - reclaimed oil sands tailings pond

Suncor - Wapisiw Lookout - reclaimed oil sands tailings pond (Deborah Jaremko, JWN Energy)


Suncor - Wapisiw Lookout - reclaimed oil sands tailings pond

Suncor - Wapisiw Lookout - reclaimed oil sands tailings pond (Deborah Jaremko, JWN Energy)


Suncor - Wapisiw Lookout - reclaimed oil sands tailings pond

Suncor - Wapisiw Lookout - reclaimed oil sands tailings pond (Deborah Jaremko, JWN Energy)


Suncor - Wapisiw Lookout - reclaimed oil sands tailings pond (Deborah Jaremko, JWN Energy)

Suncor - Wapisiw Lookout - reclaimed oil sands tailings pond (Deborah Jaremko, JWN Energy)


Syncrude - Sandhills Fen - Canadian Press/HO-Syncrude Energy, Roth and Ramberg

Syncrude - Sandhill Fen oil sands wetland reclamation (Canadian Press, Roth and Ramberg)


Syncrude - Sandhill Fen - David Thurton - CBC

Syncrude - Sandhill Fen, five years after reclamation began (David Thurton, CBC)


Syncrude - Herd of 300 Bison thrive on reclaimed oil sands land

Syncrude - Herd of 300 Bison thrive on reclaimed oil sands land


Syncrude - herd of bison on previous oil sands mine, reclamation

Syncrude - Herd of bison on previous oil sands mine


Syncrude - 300 bison, 100 new bison calves thrive on reclaimed oil sands land

Syncrude - 300 bison, 100 new bison calves thrive on reclaimed oil sands land (Gavin Young, Calgary Herald)


Syncrude - oil sands land reclamation in the works

Syncrude - oil sands land reclamation in the works


Cenovus - Christina Lake Oil Sands Land Reclamation Borrow Pit 8

Cenovus - Christina Lake, reclaimed oil sands borrow pit #8


Cenovus - Drilling wellsite reclamation underway

Cenovus - Drilling wellsite reclamation underway (Reclaimit ltd.)


Suncor - reclaimed oil sands site

Suncor - reclaimed oil sands site

Suncor - reclaimed oil sands site

Suncor - reclaimed oil sands site


Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. - Ongoing reclamation at Horizon oil sands mine

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. - Ongoing reclamation at Horizon oil sands mine


Canadian Oil and Gas Companies Lead the Way

Oil and gas companies in Canada are held to some of the highest regulatory standards in the world. Continuous oil sands reclamation is just one of the activities that these companies engage in which shows their commitment to the environment and sustainable production.

According to a recent study done by Global Advantage Consulting Group Inc., Canada's oil and gas sector is the largest spender on clean technology in the country, accounting for 75 per cent of the $1.4 billion spent annually.

As long as the world needs oil, and it will for a very long time, Canada should be the one to supply the world with as much market share as it can. We are leaders, and the world needs more Canadian energy! Also see:

What Does the Oil Sands Look Like?

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