Alberta Chamber of Resources

Alberta Chamber of Resources

February 05, 2010 09:00 ET

Cenovus Energy Awarded Alberta Chamber of Resources Major Reclamation Award

EDMONTON, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - Feb. 5, 2010) - Innovative environmental work to conserve native prairie by Cenovus Energy Inc. has resulted in it receiving the 2010 Alberta Chamber of Resources' (ACR) Major Reclamation Award.

"We are constantly working toward developing better ways to achieve reclamation success," said Alfred Burk, an environmental advisor at Cenovus, which was part of EnCana until late in 2009. "We are committed to leaving the land in a condition equal to or better than we found it and our reclamation efforts at Antelope Creek Ranch demonstrate how we are achieving that."

Conservation of native prairie in Alberta is important to Cenovus, which operates oil and gas wells within a public grazing reserve near Brooks called Antelope Creek Ranch. The area is managed by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development and accommodates wildlife, waterfowl, cattle grazing, and oil and gas production.

While conducting remediation and native prairie reclamation, Cenovus found an issue with historical use of sterilants applied to control vegetation on older oil and gas leases. Sterilants, including tebuthiuron, are industrial herbicides designed to control vegetation. The compounds remain in soil for many years following application and have been identified as an issue for remediation and reclamation since the 1980s in Alberta.

Although certain sterilants became controlled substances federally in the 1970s, there were no provincial guidelines until development of Alberta Tier 1 Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guidelines in 2007. However, the clean-up criteria did not address instances where tebuthiuron was in direct contact with plant roots. Since vegetation and soil quality are keys to reclamation success, knowing the concentrations that affect native plant species is critical.

To overcome this problem, Cenovus developed standards that protect native plant species. Cenovus contracted EBA Engineering Consultants Ltd. and Stantec Consulting Ltd. to determine concentrations of tebuthiuron that would be safe for four plant species and two soil invertebrates. To more accurately assess tebuthiuron concentrations in the soil, a new laboratory method provided by Access Analytical Laboratories Inc. was used to detect lower concentration levels.

If tebuthiuron at an oil and gas lease exceeded the acceptable limit, Cenovus cleaned the site using a soil remediation technology that uses heat to separate the sterliant from the soil, called thermal desorption. This application of thermal treatment technology from Nelson Environmental had never before been attempted in Alberta. About 15,000 tonnes of soil was treated and used as backfill on site. This meant the contaminated soil did not have to be land filled and soil from other locations, which may have contained weed species, did not have to be brought to the lease.

"The science and technology that were developed through this work will have beneficial impacts for many sites on native prairie where strong, persistent herbicides were used in the past" said ACR Executive Director Brad Anderson. "This is truly about doing the right thing and going beyond what just the regulations said to do."
The award will be presented at a February 5 banquet at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton.

About the Alberta Chamber of Resources

The Alberta Chamber of Resources represents 187 member organizations and is dedicated to the orderly and responsible development of all of Alberta's natural resources. The Chamber provides leadership on resource industry issues important to Alberta's economic, social and environmental well-being. For more information, visit

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