Corporate Responsibility


Canadian Natural manages an industry leading reclamation program. We have received the greatest number of reclamation certificates of any of our peer companies for the past several years. We achieved this level of success through coordinated planning of field work and stable, consistent application of sound reclamation practices. 

In 2014, 545 inactive wells were abandoned, contributing to a total of 3,916 wells abandoned from 2010 – 2014. We submitted 337 reclamation certificates in 2014, representing more than 760 hectares (ha) of land. Between 2010 and 2014, we submitted 1,646 reclamation certificates and a total of 2,731 ha of land have been reclaimed in our North American Exploration and Production operations. We measure our performance against industry’s performance in key areas, as part of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) Responsible Canadian Energy (RCE) program. Available RCE benchmarking data from 2014 places Canadian Natural’s land management program as a top performer in terms of reclamation certificates issued and well abandonments.  In 2014, Canadian Natural received 443 reclamation certificates, the equivalent to 35% of all certificates issued on conventional and oil sands sites, representing over two times as many certificates as the second top performer. Our Company’s wells abandoned represent 18% of the total industry well abandonments.

Proactive Approach

Canadian Natural adapts its reclamation approaches as appropriate for different ecological locations. We have specific requirements for each type of area we reclaim to manage soil and vegetation as well as landform.

At native prairie sites, we focus on minimizing site disturbance throughout the operating stages of the site and at the time of well abandonment. In this way we ensure natural grass species have the opportunity to reestablish on the location.  In addition, we support native prairie reclamation work through our involvement with academic and government researchers to optimize reclamation practices on oil and natural gas sites.

In the forest zone we work to reestablish a forest ecosystem through effective soil contour and restoration techniques. The use of decompaction equipment and deep tilling equipment to establish microclimates is ideal for tree germination. This ‘leave it rough’ approach is a significant departure from earlier forestry reclamation practices which focused on the planting of grass species to obtain rapid vegetation establishment. However, these quick-to-grow grass species inhibited tree establishment on our well sites.  Our forest zone reclamation practices today are much closer to forestry reclamation where we take advantage of natural material, such as coarse woody debris and rough contour, to aid in the establishment of natural systems.

Reclamation and reforestation work at Primrose and Wolf Lake in situ operations has been taking place since 2000. More than 550,000 tree and shrub seedlings have been planted along different sites to date.

Important steps in our ongoing reclamation work at Horizon are reforestation and soil salvage programs. Since the beginning of the Horizon project in 2008, we have reclaimed 263 hectares of the 5,500 hectares of land we have disturbed through our mining operations.  We are also monitoring the progress of 120,000 spruce seedlings planted throughout these years. 

Horizon continues to work on a soil management system implemented in 2011 to improve accessibility to reclamation information and planning. This system provides a combination of inter-related programs into a database that includes reclaimed areas, soils quality, soil disturbance, among others.  

Research and Pilots

Canadian Natural understands the importance of continuously improving our environmental performance.  We participate in ongoing research and technology programs to learn more about diverse eco-regions and how to best manage each area.

In 2014, we invested in research to evaluate innovative alternatives that will accelerate reclamation timelines in native prairie ecosystems. One of our projects consisted of planting native seedling plugs in a group of well sites being reclaimed in Southeast Alberta. A lightweight reusable panel system was designed to protect the seedlings from grazing wildlife while still allowing for normal grazing to continue on the rest of the site. Another example is our native plant revegetation trial using directly planted blueberry cuttings to restore well sites in Bonnyville, Alberta. The local planted species are adapting easily, preserving the biodiversity of the area.

Valuable research is also taking place to investigate the ecological performance of our reclaimed areas and determine best practices to reclaim areas more efficiently.  Canadian Natural has partnered with the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) to monitor the development of plant communities on reclamation areas on the Horizon lease. Findings from this study to date have shown emerging patterns in growth and provided critical insights into the effects of different cover soils and other conditions impacting growth.

Vegetation research at Horizon reclaimed sites

We are currently working on reclamation pilots to evaluate alternative solutions to landfilling waste, such as on-site enhanced bioremediation (use of micro-organism to remove pollutants) and phytoremediation (use of plants to remove contaminants) of hydrocarbon affected soils. Read our Innovation that enhances Reclamation story for more details.   

Canadian Natural participates in Canada’s Oilsands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) and shares research results with peer companies. COSIA’s Land Environmental Priority Area (EPA) focuses on terrestrial and aquatic reclamation research in the oil sands region.