Oil + Gas and the Environment
The Canadian oil and gas industry invests millions of dollars in programs and technologies to help reduce its environmental footprint. For Earth Day, we thought we’d share a few of the technologies and innovations that help offset the industry’s impacts on air, water and land, as well as a few occupations that focus on the environment.
Oil sands companies are working together through Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) on energy efficiency projects to reduce emissions and are exploring the capturing of CO2 emissions from large facilities. One project being piloted by Canadian Natural Resources Limited is called the Algal Carbon Conversion Project. The Algal Carbon Conversion Project takes CO2 from oil sands facilities and puts it into large tanks with algae and treated waste water. Then it promotes photosynthesis with LED lights. The algae then release bio-oil that can be blended into heavy oil, synthetic crude oil or be used for jet plane fuel. The leftovers can feed livestock and be used in land reclamation!
Another, simpler way the industry is decreasing emissions is using solar-powered pumps on drilling rigs and well heads.
Did you know the Canadian petroleum industry’s water usage has been monitored, licensed and regulated for decades? Crude oil and natural gas companies are always trying to reduce their use of fresh water and to use – and reuse – water more efficiently. In conventional exploration and production, water is used to improve the production of wells. And in the oil sands, water is used to help get bitumen out of the ground.
In situ oil sands operations use water to generate steam that melts bitumen so that it can flow to the surface. As the steam cools, it turns back into water, and is brought to the surface along with the bitumen. The water is then separated, treated and recycled to produce steam many times over. Oil sands operators have begun to collaborate on the creation of a Water Technology Development Centre. This would allow them to reduce the high cost of water treatment and their water use as well as improve the reliability of recycling technology.
Oil and gas companies are responsible for reclaiming any land that’s been disturbed by wells, roads, pipelines or other related activities. New projects are always reviewed by environmental specialists to assess risks and prevent damage. Industry’s land footprint has been reduced by many innovations such as horizontal drilling, using helicopters instead of trucks to transport people and equipment and cutting seismic lines as narrow as possible.
Cenovus developed the SkyStrat™ drilling rig that’s two-thirds the size of a conventional rig. It can be transported by helicopter, allowing the company to access remote drilling locations year-round without creating temporary roads.
All of these innovations are made possible by people who understand the oil and gas industry and are passionate about the environment. We’ve profiled three environmental roles in our Career Explorer tool: Environmental Technician, Environmental Engineer and Environmental Advisor.
Environmental Technicians spend the majority of their time working in the field to collect air, water and soil samples. They test, monitor and evaluate the results to ensure compliance with all environmental laws and regulations. They may also be involved in remediation.
Environmental Engineers bring together scientific knowledge and design to find ways to reduce environmental impacts. They may provide advice on project proposal or research and write environmental feasibility studies. They work to find new ways to responsibly meet energy needs.
Environmental Advisors focus on the guidelines, policies and regulations to find ways to reduce health, safety and environmental risks and impacts. They might create best practices, ensure adequate records are maintained and review and implement environmental technical standards.
You can read more about the ways industry is improving its environmental performance on our Environment and Innovation pages. And, if you’re passionate about the environment, find out more about the opportunities available in oil and gas. Our Career Explorer tool includes education requirements, career paths as well as competencies and skills for each career!