Oil and Gas Wells Reclamation
(Updated June 2013)
Alberta's oil and gas well drilling rates are increasing, and a significant number of drilled wells are abandoned each year. Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development's reclamation program ensures that abandoned wells are reclaimed in a timely manner and have a land capability that is equivalent to pre-drilling conditions.
A sustainable development process ensures that oil and gas wells are reclaimed at the same time they are abandoned. This reduces the potential for land to remain unused or unusable due to the presence of unfavourable or adverse conditions. Reclamation and abandonment rates should be similar to prevent future liabilities associated with a build-up of uncertified wells.
This indicator shows the change in the number of oil and gas wells that have been abandoned and reclaimed each year from 1963 to 2012. Abandoned wells are those that have been permanently dismantled as prescribed by the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board regulations (Directive 020: Well Abandonment Guide) and left in a safe and secure condition.
Reclaimed wells are those that have met the reclamation standards (see Reclamation Criteria for Wellsites and Associated Facilities) and received a reclamation certificate from Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development for private or public lands, or were exempted from certification.
What does the indicator show?
The indicator shows that oil and gas well reclamation certification is progressing at a much slower rate than abandonment. This is resulting in a buildup of unreclaimed wells.
There were 52,831 unreclaimed wells at the end of 2012. Approximately 32 per cent (16,975) of unreclaimed wells were abandoned between 1963 and 2002, while 68 per cent were abandoned in the last 10 years.
Over the last 10 years, an average of 4,177 wells per year were abandoned while 1,721 were certified. This results in a certification rate that is approximately 41.2 per cent of the abandonment rate.
Wells Drilled, Abandoned and Reclaimed
Almost 400,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled in the province to the end of 2012. Of those, 154,111 have been abandoned and 101,280 have been certified as reclaimed. Industry continues to drill new wells at a rate of 13,788 per year (10 year average).
This indicator is developed from licensed data from 1963 to 2012 from the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board and Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. The indicator is derived over a 50-year time span by comparing the number of reclaimed (certified and exempted) wells to the number of abandoned wells. Wells not included in this indicator are those where the Energy Resources Conservation Board licences were cancelled because the wells were not drilled.
What actions are being taken?
Land reclamation programs and reclamation incentives are continually reviewed and adjusted:
- The Upstream Oil and Gas Reclamation Program changed on October 1, 2003 to include contamination assessment and remediation as a requirement for obtaining a reclamation certificate. The program changes also provide for reclamation applications to be certified throughout the year following a desktop review.
- The Orphan Well Program, funded by the oil and gas industry and administered by the Energy Resources Conservation Board, is designed to reclaim wells formerly owned by companies that are no longer in business.
- The Licensee Liability Rating Program, administered by the Energy Resources Conservation Board, is designed to encourage reclamation soon after well abandonment. The Program is being revised in 2013 to reflect increased well abandonment liabilities and increased abandonment and reclamation costs.