Remediation and Reclamation Policy Issues and Knowledge Gaps

Policy Issue Knowledge Gaps

Regulatory, Guidelines, Directives, Policies, & Criteria


The degree of conservatism current in some regulatory guidelines can be linked to some unnecessary remedial efforts throughout the petroleum industry. The development of accepted risk and science-based studies to protect the environment and reduce remediation costs.

1.       Organics (PHC) Remediation

  • Fate and transport mechanisms (e.g., GW based soil guidelines)
  • Understand appropriate protection of various exposure pathways
  • Clarity on AB Guideline assumptions (e.g., continuous source)

2.       Inorganics (salinity, metals) Remediation

  • Fate and transport mechanisms (e.g., GW-based soil guidelines)
  • Understanding background concentrations (including regional variations) of metals and salts
  • Understand appropriate protection of various exposure pathways
  • Clarity on Soil Contamination Assessment and Remediation Guidelines (SCARG) criteria (e.g., EC, SAR)
  • Outcome-based soil quality guidelines for inorganics (surface/subsoil)

3.       Research to support future updates to forested wellsite reclamation criteria:

  • Review of sites reclaimed post 2007. Examples of research questions:
  • Are sites on a trajectory to achieve the offsite ecosite or ecosite phase?
    • Growth curves for woody species on reclaimed sites to support earlier certification of non oil and gas activities.
    • Woody species plant community trajectory/survival rates on clay pads reclaimed to after 2007.
  • Addition of species diversity parameters and thresholds to the forested criteria. Examples of research ideas:
    • Methods for assessing components of habitat for various species (e.g., caribou, mountain sheep, goats).
    • Methods for determining plant communities indicative of specific ecosites/ecosite phases.
    • Undesirable species threshold for forested criteria.
    • How much grass is too much to ensure reasonable growth over time in sensitive areas (e.g. caribou).
    • Retrospective study on forested trajectories for reclaimed eco-sites with First Nations, Indigenous community representation to measure the success of forested BMP/treatments on wellsites post certification.

4.       Support the development and update of wetland reclamation closure policy

  • Site selection criteria and tools for selection when reclaiming to wetlands (sites that were not previously wetlands).
  • Review of species richness of reclaimed wetlands on large borrow pits within the combined zones of shallow open water, emergent, wet meadow zones and swamps (when present) across the boreal/parkland for the purpose of reclamation certification.
  • Minimum species richness and cover required to verify a desired wetland plant community.
  • Peatland shifts E.g.) moderately rich fens to rich fens and construction techniques for preventing loss of trees in caribou zones during minimal disturbance construction.
  • Peatland partial pad construction, options for establishing trees/shrubs to meet potential woody species requirements in caribou zones. 

5.       Research to support restoration requirements outlined in subregional planning for Caribou region

6.       Effectiveness of restoration/reclamation treatments:

  • When is a disturbance (e.g., seismic line) no longer a disturbance?
  • Ecological value of reclamation (function, habitat, and hydrology) of different reclamation treatments (e.g., natural recovery, progressive reclamation, mounding, full/partial pad removal) compared to pre-/un-disturbed habitats.
  • Determining how to measure or assess if a reclaimed site (e.g., p/l, transmission lines, new seismic, OSE) or plant community is on a trajectory to achieve one indicative of a pre-disturbance eco-site phase for

7.       Other

  • Understand Phase I ESA calculations for Drilling Waste (link to soil/GW guidelines)
  • Understand the appropriateness of using of regional/multi-site assessments and develop a set of expectations/requirements for use
  • Develop expectations/requirement for the use of software tools/numerical modelling

Risk Assessment

Identify areas for broad application of risk assessment strategies that protect the environment and reduce the required management/remediation efforts.

  • Understanding risk assessment of receptors
  • Standardized approach of risk assessment based on residual mass vs numerical endpoints (i.e., Tier 2C)
  • Software tools to aid in the standardized application of Tier 2 guidelines using appropriate site-specific data.

Reclamation and remediation technology advancement 

Technology improvements and finding new applications of existing and new technologies to reduce reclamation and remediation costs and timelines.

1.       Petroleum hydrocarbon in fractured bedrock – effective remedial methods, associated risks, assessment effectiveness and relevance to environmental risk.

2.       Practical remedial options for petroleum hydrocarbons, salinity, and metals impacts in wetland environments. 

3.       Effective in-situ/ex-situ groundwater treatment system(s) for petroleum hydrocarbon and salinity impacted sites. 

4.       Technologies that address specific issues: small volumes, longer remediation timeframes (e.g., 10+ years), modified endpoints.

5.       Native Grassland Reclamation BMP development:

  • Techniques for meeting infill requirements on problem sites.
  • Managing Type 3 and 4 species on historical grassland sites constructed/reclaimed pre-2010).
  • Techniques for management of crested wheatgrass
  • Preventing problem native grassland reclamation sites – education tools.

6.       Forested reclamation BMP Development

  • Success of different reclamation treatments (e.g., natural recovery, progressive reclamation, mounding, planting) in establishing pre-disturbance ecosites.
  • Weed trajectories in woody plant communities, influences of boreal community variables on longevity of common noxious weeds (shade, woody species diversity/abundance, peat/mineral mixes, soil type).  How long and what conditions will individual noxious weeds become outcompeted by forested plant communities?

7.       Use of remote sensing (e.g., ARUs, drones/UAVs, imagery), in reclamation

  • Where/when can remote sensing data used for reducing sampling intensity for field level data collection?
  • Use of remote sensing to verify plant communities are indicative of the ecosite/ecosite phase.
  • Use of remote sensing to confirm or verify disturbances:
  • Borrows: e.g., snapshots of site following construction, informing wetland indicators/success;
  • Assess site variability: progressive reclamation, soil replacement, vegetation monitoring.
  • Monitoring vegetation: weeds, native grasses, woody species