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Redesign and Reclamation of Oil Sands and Their Surroundings

Alberta_Oil Sands
source: Oil Sands
Oil sand reclamation in Alberta has had a rocky start. According to Yale Environment 360, a publication of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, β€œless than one square mile of the 296 square miles of land that has been disturbed by tar sands development has been certified as being reclaimed by the province of Alberta.”
Although companies need to boost their concentration on oil sands, what they have done is pretty impressive.
Here are 3 examples of companies or people who are redesigning and repurposing oil sands and their surroundings.
1. Syncrude – Wood Bison Project, Fort McKay, Alberta 1993
Syncrude, one of the largest oil sands companies in Alberta, wanted to try something new to reclaim oil sand land. Instead of just replanting trees, the company wanted to reintroduce wood bison into the area of Fort McKay, Alberta.
So in 1993, along with the cooperation of the Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada, and Alberta Fish and Wildlife, Syncrude got its first round of bison from Elk Island National Park to place on the 25 hectare plot of reclaimed land that previously had been used for mining operations. The project was met with great success as five calves were born to the seven mature cows that first year and since then the population has grown to about 300 wood bison today.
2. Suncor Energy – Nikanotee Fen, Fort McMurray, Alberta 2013
Suncor Energy is the first company to plant a type of peat-accumulating wetland, otherwise known as a fen, to boost reclamation efforts. One of the most pressing problems of left over oil sands is that they are extremely difficult to reclaim due to the destruction of its wetlands from mining.
However, Suncor is hoping its efforts will breathe life back into these damaged areas. According to a 2012 paper from the University of Alberta it can take decades – even centuries – for wetlands to form in reclaimed areas, so only time will tell if the wetlands will be effective.
3. Marc Ryan and Adam Nicklin – Fort McMurray, Alberta 2014
Marc Ryan and Adam Nicklin are working on a project to infuse community back into Jubilee Plaza, a central square in Fort McMurray near the oil sands. The two architects plan to build a town square to bring a sense of permanence to the somewhat transient population. The area, which is currently filled with dull looking parking lots, will be redesigned to encompass:

  • A sedimentary stoned area that can be transformed into a skating rink in the winter
  • A hand moveable cedar deck which will be used as a seating space for picnics or concerts and as a play area for children
  • A corner that will sprout aspens and spruces that are also found in the surrounding boreal forests


TNphoto Tatsuya Nakagawa
Tatsuya Nakagawa is the VP of Marketing and co-founder of Castagra Products, a storage tank and wastewater coatings manufacturing company that is highly acclaimed for its sustainable coatings, cold weather tank and secondary containment coating applications, and its durable frac tank coatings. Castagra is used by the world’s top oil and gas field services companies.