- Lighter, cheaper materials and maintenance costs.
- Over 75% CapEx savings per pond.
- Increased bird deterrent efficacy.
Oil and gas regulatory requirements within Alberta and British Columbia state that companies must submit waterfowl protection plans as part of their applications for development. These plans include a variety of risk assessments for protecting migrating birds, including the types of deterrents used to keep them away and improve bird safety.
Depending on the scale of the development, bird deterrent systems can be an extremely costly endeavour, costing upwards to well over $1 million per pond. With regulations tightening and the frequency of inspections increasing, producers feel the pressure to install more efficient and cost-effective systems, which is driving innovation in this area.
As the crow flies: The quickest route to market.
Prior to 2010, pond construction rates rose over 400% as developers sought to mitigate the high cost of pumping wastewater underground. Bird deterrent systems were not often the foremost priority during construction phases, and ill-proved efforts to protect wildlife such as effigies and sound cannons often had a counter-intuitive effect on local wildlife populations.
In a 2019 case brought by the Alberta Energy Regulator, section 155 of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act was used to adjudicate that the measures taken were not “reasonably effective” and as such, the simple presence of any deterrent system is no longer sufficient to protect wildlife from “direct and indirect contact” with contaminated water.
Indirect protection measures to prevent seepage and soil pollutants are crucial to avoid toxic build up in eggs and chicks; but the largest cost to the operator comes from direct contact and robust counter measures such as habitat removal, bird nets, and pond cables – which are now required to prove efficacy.
Nets and cables: Expensive, ineffective, and inefficient.
Current systems for large ponds rely upon polyethylene nets and stainless-steel aircraft cable. In the Canadian market, cold weather and heavy ice loads render polyethylene nets unusable, forcing operators to resort to high tensile, stainless-steel, aircraft cable. But the cable is heavy and expensive, with sourcing and installation costs rising further due to auxiliary infrastructure from winches, welded piles, and a relatively higher degree of construction expertise.
In addition, the Polyethylene plastic flags attached to the cables, quickly loose deterrent efficacy as the colouring degrades from exposure to UV light, eventually falling apart within 3 to 5 years due to the freezing temperatures. The debris from the degrading flags clogs water treatment and pumping systems, leading to further repair and maintenance costs. Without the flags, the primary bird deterrent is lost – re-exposing operators to regulatory fines.
Light as a feather: stronger, lighter, and a longer lifespan.
When Integrated Sustainability was challenged to find a cheaper, more effective solution, they instantly focused on optimizing the cable material as the weight of the traditional cable system used resulted in the largest overall overhead expense. The solution? Transposing a cable hybrid used in the maritime industry well-known for low UV degradation and high visibility.
This ingenuity enabled weight and material costs to decrease by an impressive 70%. Adam Philips, Construction Manager at Integrated Sustainability explains:
“There are several properties to it that exceeded what we were previously using. It has greater tensile strength, and it is coloured – not a grey cable like the stainless-steel cable. It has a thicker diameter, is stronger pound for pound, lighter, you name it – we found a better solution.”
The change in material had a positive knock-on effect: A lighter cable also enabled a lighter suspension system, saving a further on winch fabrication and up to a 15% reduction in installment time, reducing construction labour costs.
“Then we started digging deeper into what kind of ribbon could we apply? What is going to last longer in the elements, especially being in northern parts of the province? Can we look at our pile design? What else can we improve?”
With this mindset, a new flag material was redesigned and tested, decreasing degradation rates from 3 to 15 years, with little visible change to the colour vibrancy. The environmental effectiveness of the improved system has been well received, receiving strong endorsement from the regulator and customers alike.
Two birds with one stone – environmental and financial efficiency
Integrated Sustainability’s first implementation of the elevated design was successfully completed in 2019, with the new system installed on four, 200-metre-wide produced ponds in Northern British Columbia.
The improved design saved the client nearly $1 million CapEx per pond – a total savings of roughly $4 million on bird protection alone – all while delivering ESG targets and improving life for the intended beneficiaries, the birds.
With environmental issues now accounting for 30% of boardroom conversations (Bloomberg), the cost of business is now a leading competitive advantage. Can your next tailings pond afford to ignore effective bird deterrence?
Arrange a consultation with Integrated Sustainability for more insight on how slight changes to your waterfowl protection plan can make a significant positive impact to your bottom line and environmental performance.