To offset the industry's impacts on air, water and land, crude oil and gas companies invest millions of dollars in programs and technologies that help reduce their environmental footprint.
New technologies are helping the oil and gas industry to reduce their emissions and fuel use. A few examples include:
- Solar-powered pumps installed on drilling rigs and well heads to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- CO2 capture and storage technologies used to send this greenhouse gas back underground and keep it safely out of the air.
- Using hydrotransport instead of trucks in oil sands operations to get the bitumen to an upgrading facility which significantly reduces the fuel used in the process.
- Fugitive emissions (small natural gas leaks from processing facilities) being detected early and tested, with the emissions sources being repaired quickly and efficiently.
Water plays an important role in the oil and gas industry. For example, water is used to help recover the bitumen from oil sands and to improve the production of conventional wells.
The industry's water usage has been monitored, licensed and regulated for decades. Large users of water must apply for a license to divert either surface or groundwater.
Petroleum companies are always seeking new ways to reduce their use of fresh water, and to use - and reuse - water more efficiently. Approximately 90% of the water used in major oil and gas projects is continually recycled and reused. Groundwater testing is commonplace, particularly in natural gas from coal (coalbed methane) areas.
By law, companies starting new projects must hire biologists and environmental specialists to assess any risks and prevent damage. In addition, before any work is started, archaeologists check leased areas of activity for signs of past inhabitation that must be protected. In some locations, field employees are even asked to keep an eye out for dinosaur tracks!
The seismic sector uses low impact seismic techniques to reduce land disruption. Helicopters are used instead of trucks to transport people and equipment. Seismic lines are cut as narrow as possible, often by hand. Trees and brush are mulched to become fertilizer for new growth.
Companies are responsible for reclaiming any land that was disturbed by wells, access roads, pipelines or other related activities. Reclamation activities include replacing saved topsoil and replanting trees and local vegetation.
In all stages of a project, companies strive to minimize their effect on wildlife. Projects protect caribou habitat and migration paths, reintroduce animals (such as the wood bison) to an area, create habitats for fish, birds and animals, and alter project plans to minimize risk to native animal populations like the grizzly bear. Some companies fund scientific research projects, bird and mammal surveys and species at risk listings and maps.
There are many environmental career opportunities, check Career Explorer, our career planning tool to find one that suits you!