Gas drilling rig near Sexmith, Alta. in the Peace River region, home of B.C. and Alberta’s extensive shale gas drilling area. (Wikimedia Commons)

B.C. needs to catch up in restoring old gas wells, auditor says

Taxpayers won’t be stuck with ‘orphaned’ wells, regulator says

The shale gas boom in northeastern B.C. has left a backlog of thousands of inactive wells that need to be filled in and have their sites restored, B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer says in a new report.

Legislation was passed last year to require gas drillers to decommission wells, but the rules lacked a “trigger” to determine when that should happen, the audit concluded. By 2018, that left a backlog of more than 7,000 well sites that were inactive but not sealed with concrete and cleaned up.

Bellringer also found that security deposits from drilling companies did not cover growing restoration costs as horizontal hydraulic fracturing led to rapid growth in gas development.

“Decommissioning and restoration are the operator’s responsibility, but in cases where sites are ‘orphaned’ by bankrupt or absent operators, the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission becomes responsible for the work,” Bellringer wrote. “The number of orphan sites in B.C. increased from 45 in 2015-16 to 326 in 2018-19.”

Security deposits from drilling companies are put into an “orphan fund” to cover costs, but in 2016-17 the fund was short $16.6 million and the following year it was short $13.1 million.

In its response to the audit, the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission said it is developing a new “comprehensive liability management plan” based on changes to B.C. legislation passed in May 2018. The plan “holds industry accountable, addresses unrestored oil and gas sites and protects the environment and public safety,” the commission says in its response to the audit.

READ MORE: Coastal GasLink setting up B.C. work camps for pipeline

READ MORE: Stone tools at pipeline route ‘not likely’ in original location

“These new tools will address he restoration of orphan sites in a timely manner, while ensuring no direct costs to taxpayers.”

The commission has implemented a policy to restore orphan wells within 10 years of designation, and has agreed with all 11 recommendations in the audit. They include allocating $14 million for the orphan fund for the current year.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Fire burns down barn and workshop near Tyhee Lake

Owner Martin Hennig estimates around $200,000 in uninsured losses after the buildings burned down.

Portugese national concertmaster headlines classical music festival

Spirit of the North festival will feature internationally-renowned musicians to local kids

Mip brings the small town to the big city

“I feel like the small town part of me is really important to have in the city.”

If climate is an emergency, act like it

Council has declared a climate emergency, but is sitting on money that could mitigate its effects

CT scanner officially open in Smithers

As of noon on July 12 the machine had scanned 45 patients, five of which were emergency CT scans.

Feds lowered poverty line, reducing the number of seniors in need: documents

Liberals introduced a poverty line that was below the prior low-income cutoff

BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs have been sold

Victoria company has purchased BCHL team, but will keep it in Port Alberni

“Does Kirby care?” B.C. First Nation’s group using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

Trudeau announces $79M investment for 118 more public transit buses across B.C.

Contributions from municipal to federal level to fund more buses in a bid to cut commutes

B.C. woman wins record $2.1 million on casino slot machine

‘That night was so surreal … I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for the first two days,’ she said

After B.C. dad’s death, Technical Safety BC wants changes to trampoline park rules

Jay Greenwood, 46, did ‘a series of acrobatic manoeuvres prior to a fall that caused serious injury and cardiac arrest’

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Tax take stays ahead of increased B.C. government spending

Tax revenue $2.1 billion higher than budget in 2018-19

Two toddler siblings found drowned on First Nation in Alberta

The siblings were found drowned on their family’s property, according to RCMP

Most Read