Rising to the challenge of boreal reclamation
A $350,000 contribution from Penn West Exploration will advance NAIT’s applied research in forest land reclamation in northwest Alberta. With the growth of the oil and gas industry in the boreal forest region, the research will play an important role in developing a plant and seed delivery system for oil and gas well site reclamation.
“Penn West is committed to environmental sustainability in areas where we work, live and play,” said Keith Luft, general counsel and senior vice president, corporate services. “Penn West’s operational and environmental programs consider full project lifecycles, focusing on impact minimization during design and operation, and full restoration following abandonment and reclamation.”
Alberta’s boreal forest covers over half the province and contains vast natural resources, including timber, conventional oil and gas, and bitumen. The importance of well site reclamation has become more prominent with the Province of Alberta introducing ecologically-based reclamation standards. Oil and gas companies are now facing the challenge of reclaiming a backlog of well sites that have reached their commercial lifespan.
Hugh Seaton, director of the NAIT Boreal Research Institute, affirms that Penn West Exploration’s partnership with NAIT demonstrates a shared commitment to meeting requirements by using native, boreal plant trees and shrubs as part of the progressive reclamation effort.
“This starts with the planning stage and carries right though to achieving best practices in ecological reclamation,” said Seaton. “An example is the use of boreal plant species to establish ground cover on old well sites. Ultimately, progressive reclamation will reduce the oil and gas footprint in Alberta’s boreal forest region.”
With Penn West’s contribution, NAIT will increase knowledge in the collection, storage, cleaning, and propagation of native seeds and plants in the Peace River region. To glean this knowledge, the NAIT Boreal Research Institute team of researchers and students collaborate with industry experts in forestry and the oil and gas sectors.
“Partnering with organizations such as NAIT is an important part of our Community Matters Program,” said Luft. “We look for opportunities to leverage complementary strengths and work toward the objectives common among Penn West, our partners, and our communities. The Boreal Research Institute provides this type of opportunity.”
Established in 1995, the Boreal Research Institute expanded in 2008 to address environmental and regulatory pressures to recover well sites. The institute’s emerging research areas have been engaged to address boreal plant systems, peatland restoration, plant and seed technologies, and tools to measure and mitigate forest fragmentation.
NAIT is one of Canada’s leading polytechnics, with almost 80,000 registrations worldwide in key areas, including science, technology and the environment, business, health care and trades. Known for real-world education and student success, NAIT also engages with business and industry in applied research and innovation and provides corporate training around the world. NAIT enrolled its first students - 29 communication electrician apprentices - in 1962.
About Penn West Exploration Ltd.
Penn West is one of the largest conventional oil and natural gas producers in Canada. Penn West operates a significant portfolio of light oil in Canada. Based in Calgary, Alberta, Penn West operates throughout western Canada on a land base encompassing nearly six million acres.