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Case Studies

Protecting Wildlife in Alberta’s Energy Sector

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The Role of Cable Grid Netting Systems for Natural Gas Tailings Ponds

In the heart of Alberta's energy sector, where natural gas production is a significant industry, environmental protection remains a critical concern. One of the primary environmental challenges associated with natural gas extraction is the management of tailings ponds. These ponds, which store by-products of the extraction process, pose a significant threat to local wildlife. To mitigate these risks, the use of cable grid netting systems has emerged as an effective solution.

Tailings Ponds and Their Impact

Netting over fracing pondTailings ponds are engineered structures designed to contain the waste materials generated during natural gas extraction and processing. While essential for managing industrial waste, these ponds can be hazardous to wildlife, primarily due to the presence of toxic substances. Birds and other animals may be attracted to these ponds, mistaking them for natural water bodies, which can lead to fatal consequences.

Solution: Cable Grid Netting System

Cable grid netting systems are designed to cover tailings ponds, creating a physical barrier that prevents wildlife from coming into contact with harmful substances. These systems consist of a grid of cables stretched across the surface of the pond, supporting a fine mesh net that deters animals from landing or entering the water. The netting is robust enough to withstand environmental conditions while ensuring that wildlife is kept at a safe distance.The implementation of cable grid netting systems in Alberta's natural gas tailings ponds is crucial for the protection of various wildlife species:

  • Waterfowl: Ducks, geese, and swans are particularly vulnerable to tailings ponds. They often mistake these artificial ponds for natural habitats and can suffer from poisoning or oiling if they come into contact with the contaminated water. The netting system effectively prevents these birds from landing on the ponds.
  • Raptors: Birds of prey, such as eagles, hawks, and owls, can be drawn to tailings ponds while hunting for food. By covering the ponds, the netting reduces the risk of these birds ingesting or coming into contact with toxic substances, thereby safeguarding their health.
  • Songbirds: Smaller birds, including various species of songbirds, can also be at risk. These birds might stop at the ponds during migration or while searching for food and water. The netting ensures they do not accidentally land on the dangerous waters.
  • Mammals: While primarily designed to protect birds, cable grid netting can also deter mammals such as deer, moose, and small mammals from approaching tailings ponds. These animals might otherwise attempt to drink from or swim in the ponds, leading to serious health risks.

The use of cable grid netting systems offers several advantages for wildlife protection in the energy sector:

  • Effective Barrier: The netting provides a reliable and effective barrier that physically prevents animals from accessing the tailings ponds.
  • Durability: These systems are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions, ensuring long-term protection.
  • Minimal Maintenance: Once installed, cable grid netting systems require minimal maintenance, making them a cost-effective solution for energy companies.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Using these systems helps energy companies comply with environmental regulations and guidelines aimed at protecting wildlife.

The natural gas industry in Alberta plays a vital role in the region's economy, but it also comes with environmental responsibilities. Implementing cable grid netting systems over tailings ponds is a crucial step in protecting local wildlife from the harmful effects of industrial by-products. By safeguarding waterfowl, raptors, songbirds, and mammals, these systems contribute to the preservation of Alberta's rich biodiversity.