Oil Sands Reclamation: 26 Photos of Reclaimed Oil Sands

canadian oil sands reclamation photos

What does oil sands reclamation look like in Canada? That's a good question, and an important one to explain in full considering that Canada’s oil sands has long been in the crosshairs of anti-oil and gas activists looking to de-market our oil and prevent it from getting to world consumers.

A common method used by these groups to smear the industry is to post pictures of open pit mines and tailings ponds in various online mediums, giving off an impression to the unknowing viewer that is what the entirety of Alberta's oil sands looks like.

Unsurprisingly, they skip using photos of minimal disturbance in-situ operations and reclaimed oil sands sites because such photos show environmentally progressive and responsible development that doesn’t fit their oppositional narrative, which is devoid of balance.

And unfortunately, out-of-context pictures of zoomed-in oil sands mining operations are sometimes even used by media across Canada to represent the sector as a whole. This is in addition to international coverage that often lacks balance and also uses mining imagery to convey a negative message, which 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 just over half of current oil sands production

You would think a newspaper in Alberta, for example, would use photos for oil sands-related articles to better represent the majority of potential land area development, like this one of a Cenovus steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) operation at Christina Lake:

Cenovus Christina Lake SAGD Operation Cenovus - Christina Lake SAGD operation

SAGD paints a much more appropriate image of what most development looks like as in-situ is responsible for about half of oil sands production. Also, as in-situ methods are projected to be used more extensively in the coming years, it gives us a glimpse at what the majority of future oil sands development will look like.

Oil Sands Reclamation is Required

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

In-situ oil sands operations create just 10-15% of the land disturbance compared to mining and must be fully reclaimed. All land disturbed by mining operations also must be reclaimed as required by the Alberta Energy Regulator.

So, the question still remains: what exactly does oil sands reclamation look like? Here are several pictures of reclaimed oil sands and reclamation underway by various energy companies in Alberta.

25+ Photos of Oil Sands Reclamation

Syncrude oil sands reclamation project

Syncrude - Reclamation project


Syncrude reclamation Sandhill Fen watershed

Syncrude - Oil Sands reclamation Sandhill Fen watershed


tree planting suncor 1

Suncor - Mound tree planting


Wapisiw oil sands reclamation tailings pond Suncor

Suncor - Wapisiw Oil Sands tailings pond reclamation site


suncor oil sands reclamation pond

Suncor - Energy pond 1 in August of 2010


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)


Suncor - Wapisiw Lookout - reclaimed oil sands tailings pond

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


Suncor - Wapisiw Lookout - reclaimed oil sands tailings pond

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


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

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


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

CNRL - Ongoing reclamation at Horizon oil sands mine


Canadian Oil Sands Companies Lead the Way

Canadian oil sands companies are held to some of the highest regulatory standards in the world. Oil sands reclamation, where replanting forests is front and centre, is just one of the activities these companies engage in, showing their commitment to sustainably producing the energy we need while also protecting the environment.

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

As long as the world needs oil - which it will for a very long time – Canada’s environmentally conscious oil sands producers are an ideal supply source. We are environmental leaders, and the world needs more Canadian energy!

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