Old, unproductive oil and gas wells could cost up to $70B to clean up, says new report

Old, unproductive oil and gas wells could cost up to $70B to clean up, says new report

This Redwater Energy site in northern Alberta is under the control of the Orphan Well Association, after the company went bankrupt. (CBC)

A new report suggests cleaning up all of the old and unproductive oil and gas wells in Alberta will cost between $40 billion and $70 billion.

The Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project (ALDP) — a consortium that includes landowners and scientists — came up with the figure using data obtained from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER).

The figure is much higher than an AER estimate, which pegs the anticipated cleanup cost of all oil and gas infrastructure at $58.65 billion. The AER’s number includes pipelines and other facilities, while the ALDP only looked at oil and gas wells.

The ALDP released the report in Calgary on Monday morning.

“I’ve spent the last three years trying to come up with a viable solution to this conundrum,” said Regan Boychuk, a researcher with the ALDP.  “The first step is understanding the problem better and calling for transparency (from the AER).”

Alberta has about 100,000 abandoned and inactive wells throughout the province. (CBC)

The number of wells in the province slated to be remediated is about 3,000. However, there are more than 100,000 unproductive wells that will need to be cleaned up.

“The mess continues to grow,” said Mark Dorin, who has had a problem well for more than a decade on his family’s land near Didsbury, a town located 80 kilometres north of Calgary. For several years, the well was leaking gas into the air. His mother, Shirley, said it impacted her health when she would be out in the yard.

“My garden is very close in proximity to the oil well, which had been supposedly been shutdown,” she said. “I would notice a really severe headache when I would be out in the garden.”

Only after calling the provincial environment officials and hiring a lawyer has the family been able to stop the leak. Now, they wait for the well to actually be cleaned up.

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