The Province of Alberta is working with industry and experts to find ways to better protect Albertans and the environment by improving policies for managing old oil and gas facilities.
Subject matter experts and key stakeholders will take part in roundtable discussions on improving the management of historic, current and future liabilities associated with the full life cycle of upstream oil and gas development. The review will focus on further protecting Albertans and the environment while keeping Alberta a competitive place to invest.
“Albertans are concerned about the growing problem of orphaned and aging oil and gas infrastructure. Many landowners are directly affected by this, and it’s a problem that has been ignored for far too long," said Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, Minister of Energy. "It’s important we take action and find the best way to improve the system and ensure these sites are managed responsibly.”
Diverse perspectives will be at the table to help inform policy discussions, including representation from industry, landowners, environmental groups, municipalities and Indigenous communities. The review is expected to be complete by the end of 2017.
“Environmental protection and safety of communities is paramount to our industry. We think it’s critical to open the dialogue with Albertans and jointly develop a framework that improves the management of unproductive upstream oil and natural gas assets," said Brad Herald, chairman, Orphan Well Association (OWA). "As part of our commitment, we will take part in that conversation and support solutions to improve policy and manage these liabilities.”
“Rural landowners and municipal districts have many concerns surrounding this issue. We’re pleased to see government is beginning its review and look forward to learning more about how we can address it,” said Al Kemmere, president, Alberta Association Of Municipal Districts & Counties (AAMDC).
An orphan well or facility is one confirmed not to have anyone responsible or able to deal with its closure and reclamation. Inactive means a well or associated facility where activities have stopped due to technical or economic reasons. Not all sites in this category are orphaned. Many may be reopened and produce again at a later date. An abandoned site is permanently dismantled (plugged, cut and capped) and left in a safe and secure condition.
Remediation is the process of cleaning up a contaminated well site to meet specific soil and groundwater standards, while reclamation is the process of replacing soil and re-establishing vegetation on a well site so it can support activities similar to those it could have supported before it was disturbed.
Alberta has an estimated 180,000 active wells, 83,000 inactive wells and 69,000 abandoned wells. As of March 2017, the Orphan Well Association (OWA) had an inventory of 2,084 orphaned wells to go through closure activities (1,394 to be abandoned, 690 to be reclaimed). The OWA closed 185 wells last year.