Minimizing Impact

Nexen is working to minimize our environmental impact.

Using Innovation & Technology to Develop the Oil Sands in a Sustainable Manner

Energy in all forms – coal, oil, natural gas and alternatives – is required to meet the world’s growing energy demands. Production from Canada’s oil sands, the world’s largest oil resource after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, is an increasingly important part of the equation. Nexen and our industry peers are working to ensure the oil sands are developed in a responsible manner.

Improved energy efficiency will mean fewer emissions per barrel.

Taking Action on Climate Change

The oil sands industry has made significant investments in new technologies to improve energy efficiency and reduce the amount of carbon we emit. Overall, oil sands carbon emissions per barrel are about 26% less than they were in 1990. At Nexen, one of the biggest opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emission intensity is by improving energy efficiency. While the first step is to utilize energy-efficient technology in the construction of our facilities – as we did with Long Lake – it also entails investing in future technologies that enable the production of oil and gas in a less carbon-intensive manner:

  • Nexen, along with the University of Calgary, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Alberta Innovates – Energy Environment Solutions, is funding a five-year project at the Schulich School of Engineering in Calgary to build on and improve the bitumen upgrading processes used at Long Lake.
  • Nexen is funding the Nexen Professor in Catalytic Reaction Engineering at the University of Alberta, designed to increase educational and research developments in reaction engineering, catalysis, gasification and thermal conversion.
  • We’re participating in a clean technology joint venture called Enhanced Solvent Extraction Incorporating Electromagnetic Heating, which has the potential to eliminate water use, improve energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions from in-situ bitumen production operations.

Our Long Lake facility is designed to recycle 90% of the water used in our SAGD operation.

Minimizing Water Use

We’ve incorporated a number of water conservation initiatives into Long Lake, which is designed to recycle more than 90% of all water used. And we’ve taken steps to further reduce fresh water consumption by using non-potable, saline water in our SAGD operations. Nexen is also supporting research that would see wastewater from tailings ponds, a by-product of oil sands mining, recycled and used at in-situ operations. And we’re collaborating on a Water Treatment Development Centre, where companies can improve treated water quality, test drive new technologies to reduce water use and work together to make them commercially feasible.

By law, we must restore the land so it's equal to, or better than, its original state.

Reducing Land Impacts

At Long Lake, SAGD wells are drilled horizontally from pads, which reduces land disturbance as compared to oil sands mining. As these well pads and related facilities reach the end of their productive life, the land is reclaimed in accordance with environmental regulations. Long Lake was one of the first oil sands developments to participate in an Integrated Landscape Management (ILM) program, to cooperatively manage industrial land access with other users. Adopting an ILM approach has resulted in a reduced number of roads, pipelines and utility corridors which minimizes our environmental footprint. Industry has also collaborated on research that’s expected to reduce impacts to the forest ecosystem.

Nexen works with peer companies to improve environmental performance.

Collaborating on Solutions

Nexen believes in the value of teamwork and collaboration to improve performance. It’s the way we do business, not only in regard to our own teams but also in our relationships with others.

We are a founding member of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance Inc. (COSIA), a collaborative network with a vision to enable responsible and sustainable growth of Canada’s oil sands while delivering accelerated improvement in environmental performance through collaborative action and innovation.

Through COSIA, participating companies will capture, develop and share the most innovative approaches and best practices to improve environmental performance in the oil sands, initially focusing on four priority areas – tailings, water, land and greenhouse gases. COSIA will take innovation and environmental performance in the oil sands to the next level through a continued focus on collaboration and transparent exchange.

One example is the Faster Forests program. This initiative aims to reduce forest fragmentation caused by oil sands development, thereby improving habitat for woodland caribou and other mammals. To date, Faster Forests has resulted in the planting of about 2 million trees on roughly 1,000 exploration sites. Nexen planted our one-millionth tree in the Long Lake area in July 2014.