Canadian Natural Named Energy Excellence Awards Champion For Area Based Reclamation Program

Native Prairie reclamation project. Image: Canadian Natural

The Daily Oil Bulletin’s first annual Energy Excellence Awards were held in Calgary on Thursday, May 2. Awards were handed out in 12 categories under the banners of Operational and Project Excellence, Innovation and Research Excellence, and Exporting Excellence.

Over the next two weeks we will be profiling the champions in each of the 12 subcategories. Today’s instalment, sponsored by industry partner Fluor, profiles the champion in the category Operational Excellence: Pipelines & Facilities.

Click here to read about all of the champions and finalists.


Canadian Natural Resources Limited’s Area Based Reclamation pilot project was so successful that the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), in collaboration with industry, expanded the idea across the entire province.

Canadian Natural’s pilot (one of three such pilots run concurrently at the time) proved that a coordinated company-wide asset approach to land reclamation lowers costs and improves results.

“What made a difference was working with the regulator and the landholders and being able to group reclamation projects logically,” says Joy Romero, Canadian Natural’s vice-president of technology and innovation.

Cutting the costs of land reclamation allows Canadian Natural to do more reclamation work. The amount of reclamation that Canadian Natural has accomplished to date is a feather in its cap. In 2017, Canadian Natural received 442 reclamation certificates from the AER, which represents 26 per cent of the total reclamation certificates issued in the province.

Canadian Natural’s shift to Area Based Reclamation promises to further accelerate this record of success.

Although Canadian Natural’s program references “reclamation,” the program includes a broad set of activities: remediation (the removal of old infrastructure and soil clean-up); abandonment and discontinuation (suspension and capping of wells and pipelines in a safe and environmentally sound manner); and reclamation (returning the sites to forests, agriculture, wetlands, or recreational and municipal land).

“Industry, the regulator and stakeholders all have the same goal in mind, which is to maximize the reclamation of wells and infrastructure, so we want to abandon and reclaim them as quickly as possible. Grouping them into logical clusters make sense for the deployment of people, equipment and the technologies for reclaiming land,” says Romero.

An area-based approach reduces land reclamation costs by up to 40 per cent by providing a combination of advantages. Grouping work together improves economies of scale in comparison to doing the work piecemeal.

A focus on a geography region as a whole also lowers the cost of the learning curve. In a challenging environment, closure of the first few wells may take time to figure out before becoming routine. Sharing these learnings across other projects in the region accelerates subsequent work.

(Another efficiency comes from limiting simultaneous reclamation work on projects in close proximity. This is more of an industry benefit, now that an area-based approach has been expanded to a provincial scale. Through the AER website, companies can see what reclamation work is being planned in each region of the province and can work collaboratively to sequence that work and reduce the costs of mobilizing and demobilizing people and equipment.)

Area Based Reclamation is supported by Canadian Natural’s continued participation in ongoing industry research and technology programs to learn more about the diverse ecosystems in which it works and the best reclamation approaches in each region.

In 2016 and 2017, for example, it worked with industry and regulators through Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC) to reduce excavation and disposal on native prairie, protect biodiversity and accelerate reclamation.

It is also a long-standing corporate member in the Canadian Land Reclamation Association (CLRA), a non-profit organization that encourages personal and corporate involvement where reclamation or rehabilitation of disturbed lands is planned or implemented. 

That Canadian Natural is not only Canada’s second largest oil and gas producer but also a leader in environmental stewardship is evidenced by this Energy Excellence Award and recognition in two finalist categories: Operational Excellence Oil and Gas for its Methane Emissions Reductions program, and in the Operational Excellence Oilsands category for its Advanced Carbon Capture and Sequestration in Tailings work.

These successes are the outcome of Canadian Natural’s philosophy that doing the right thing also makes good business sense. The company also fosters a culture of employee accountability for innovation, but that culture of personal accountability can meet with challenges as a company grows to the size of Canadian Natural.

“We’ve grown a lot and are now 10,000 strong. That accountability for each and every employee still exists but it needs some systems in place to help ensure ideas are shared across the organization in a timely manner,” Romero says.

To this end, Romero’s team works with all Canadian Natural business units to help accelerate innovation and ensure that advances are shared with other business units and reported up to the most senior people inside the company, including the board of directors.

“We make sure that each project is evaluated the same way. We develop timelines for each department so as to focus capital for the best effect. We develop deployment plans for the successful technologies and try to de-risk and accelerate all the technology options,” Romero says.


Industry Partner:

Since 1949, Fluor Canada has been involved in the engineering, procurement and construction of a wide range of energy related projects that are spread across the Canadian landscape. Throughout its 70-year history in Canada, Fluor has provided local, regional and international clients with full-service capabilities, which include economic evaluations, conceptual engineering, feasibility studies, program management, detailed engineering, procurement, transportation and logistics, modularization, fabrication, direct-hire construction, construction management, commissioning, start-up, operations and maintenance. 

Click here to read about all of the champions and finalists.