Photo by The Canadian Press

CALGARY — Alberta’s oil and gas regulator has rolled out new rules aimed at addressing the growing problem of inactive and abandoned wells in the province, but critics say the industry should be forced to do even more to clean up after itself.

The Alberta Energy Regulator says the new regulations, which come into effect immediately and mark the first significant overhaul of Alberta’s oil and gas well liability framework in more than a decade, represent a “major milestone.”

“With these new requirements, we’re pushing industry to clean up their sites sooner and ensuring the cost and responsibility of the cleanup rests on the shoulders of industry – where it should be,” said AER president and chief executive Laurie Pushor, in a news release.

Alberta’s UCP government first announced the changes last year, in response to growing concern from landowners, taxpayers and environmentalists about the more than 95,000 inactive wells in the province.

According to the AER, there are also more than 73,500 wells in Alberta that have been sealed and taken out of service but not yet fully remediated.

Under the new framework, the energy industry will be required to spend $422 million next year on cleanup and remediation of old wells. That amount increases to $443 million in 2023 and by similar amounts in each of the next three years — although targets beyond 2024 are forecasts only.

Those amounts are based on the industry’s past spending and are expected to deal with slightly more than four per cent of the total liability each year. They are in addition to the $1 billion the federal government has made available to industry contractors working on well cleanup.

Oil and gas producers seeking licences for new wells will also be assessed to make sure they are financially healthy enough to meet cleanup and closure responsibilities. And applications to transfer well licences between companies will trigger an assessment of both companies by the regulator to ensure the receiving company can safely operate the infrastructure and reclaim it when it is no longer in use.

But critics say the new regulations don’t go far enough, especially now that oil prices  are higher than they’ve been in years.

Sara Hastings-Simon of the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy said at the rate of four per cent a year, it will take 25 to 30 years to address the extent of the problem, and that’s assuming no additional abandoned wells are created in that time.

The industry should be forced to pay more now, she said, given that companies are generating significant excess cash flow due to this year’s commodity price boom.

“You’re talking about companies that have very strong profits on the back of the recent surge in energy prices. They’re paying out significant dividends to shareholders,” Hastings-Simon said. “And I think that’s a real concern around equity and fairness, with investors around the world getting these dividend payouts while the public in Canada is left holding that liability risk.’

According to the AER, in 2020, industry closed 6,503 wells and 625 facilities while 2,666 sites were reclamation certified.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2021.

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press

News from © The Canadian Press, 2021. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Editor’s note: Before becoming CEO of the AER, Laurie Pushor was Saskatchewan deputy minister of the Economy from 2015-2020 and deputy minister of Energy and Resources from 2018-2020.


  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0050 Pride Upkeep lawn
    0050 Pride Upkeep lawn
  • 0048 Hutts Trucking Safety
    0048 Hutts Trucking Safety
  • 0047 Estevan Oilfield Technical Society 2023
    0047 Estevan Oilfield Technical Society 2023
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0044 PTRC CCUS Aquistore
    0044 PTRC CCUS Aquistore
  • 0043 ALX ten sizes
    0043 ALX ten sizes
  • 0039 Summit ESP Saskatchewan lower third
    0039 Summit ESP Saskatchewan lower third
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0040 Southeast College safety tickets
    0040 Southeast College safety tickets
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0029 Latus Viro updated Latus phone
  • 0025 Kendalls
  • 0023 LC Trucking tractor picker hiring mix
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0019 Jerry Mainil Ltd hiring dugout
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0004 Royal Helium PO Ad 02
  • 9001
  • 0002