Dormant well reclamation timelines set

Dormant oil and gas wells must now be decommissioned on set timelines

Reclamation of decommissioned wells can require road decommissioning and tree planting. |BCOGC

The BC Oil and Gas Commission has enacted new regulations and timelines for the cleanup of dormant and orphan oil and gas wells in B.C.

There are some 10,000 dormant oil and gas wells in B.C. Until now, there was no set timeline for their decommissioning and restoration work, which can include deactivating roads.

A new “dormancy regulation” requires all dormant wells to be reclaimed within 10 years after being designated inactive, with 100% of the costs to be paid for by the industry.

But some of those wells will have to be decommissioned on an accelerated basis, based on a number of factors, including First Nations interests, agriculture use and environmental concerns.

For the priority sites, an expedited timeline will require that 30% of the designated well to be decommissioned by 2021, 70% by 2026 and 100% by 2031.

Mike Janzen, director of orphan planning and restoration, said that, as a result of the new timelines, he expects to see  “a five-fold” increase in well reclamation work over the next few years.

Most dormant wells in B.C. are owned by solvent companies. According to the BCOGC, only 1% are orphan wells – i.e. wells that are abandoned when their owners go bankrupt.

A new fund, which will be paid for with a new levy on industry, has been established to pay for orphan well decommissioning and remediation.