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Frequently Asked Questions

How are wells decommissioned?

Before a well can be decommissioned, companies must follow very strict stages in preparation. First of all, the company who owns the well must inform any affected landowners about the possibility of decommissioning. Then, they must test the well to make sure that, once decommissioned; it will not pose a threat to nearby citizens and the environment. Finally, the company must perform strict modifications to the oil well to thwart any possible issues found during testing.

Learn more about well decommissioning at the Alberta Energy Regulator website.

What is the difference between suspending a well, and decommissioning a well?

While similar, decommissioning a well and suspending a well are two different processes. The main difference being that a suspended well can be reactivated while a decommissioned well cannot. Decommissioning a well involves a series of stages involved before, during, and after the dismantling of an oil well. Suspension on the other hand, can occur when a well has been deemed inactive by not producing oil and gas, or disposing of waste in 6 to 12 months. Once a well has been labelled inactive, the company with ownership of that well can suspend that well by performing a series of procedures to ensure the well poses no threat to the citizens or environment.

Learn more about well suspension at the Alberta Energy Regulator website, the BC Oil and Gas Commission’s website or Saskatchewan’s Oil and Gas website.

What is an orphan well?

An orphan is a well, pipeline, or related site which has been confirmed as not having any legally or financially responsible owner or party. Usually, this occurs when the licensee company has become insolvent.

Learn more about orphan wells at the various provincial website links, which can be found at:

Who can I contact about orphan site management compensation in BC?

The British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission may, at times, provide a land owner with compensation if that land owner is no longer being provided with rental payments from the previous permit holder after their site has been deemed an orphan.

Land owners wishing to apply for compensation can go through the BCOGC.

What’s the difference between remediation and reclamation? 

If a leak or a release of substances occurs from an oil well, or facility, the companies who own that site must follow a process called remediation in order to clean up or manage any contamination of the surrounding environment to prevent spread or migration of any contaminants over time.

Reclamation, while similar, is a process required in Alberta where companies must provide a plan to maintain the land they intend to operate on. This process involves reducing the amount of land they disturb or affect, cleaning up any contamination (remediation), as well as revegetating the area in which they operated. After which, companies can apply for a reclamation certificate from that areas governing body.

Learn more about remediation and reclamation at the Alberta Energy Regulator website.

What is the AER?

The AER or Alberta Energy Regulator is an organization created to ensure the safe, responsible, and efficient development of oil, oil sands, natural gas, and coal resources across Alberta. Learn more about the Alberta Energy Regulator.

What is the BCOGC?

The BCOGC or British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission is a regulatory agency in British Columbia with responsibilities in overseeing oil, gas, and geothermal operations within British Columbia. Learn more about the BCOGC.

What is a Liability Management Program?

All Western Canadian Provinces have developed some form of Liability Management programs and procedures.

In BC, the BCOGC oversees dormancy regulation and a Comprehensive Liability Management Plan, both of which can be viewed on their website at:

In Alberta, the AER has developed a series of programs and processes to help companies manage energy development responsibly in order to ensure that an oil well or site is properly decommissioned and reclaimed.

AER Liability Management programs include: the Licensee Liability Rating Program, the Oilfield Waste Liability Program and more. Learn more about AER Liability Management Programs.

And in Saskatchewan, Liability Management is managed in three main ways – their acknowledgement of a reclamation program, a Licensee Liability Rating (LLR) and an Orphan Fund Procurement Program. More details can be found at: