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.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Oliver woman reflects on prestigious win at Westminster dog show

“Polly” the Scottish deerhound was crowned best in breed and reserve best hound.

Okanagan School of the Arts launching first exhibit of 2020

“The work we’ve received is incredibly colourful and vibrant…” - OSA executive director, Kim Palmer.

South Okanagan mountain bore racist name for a half century

Nkawala Mountain was initially named in connection with the deaths of two black men.

The tragic tale of two Summerland men who perished on Christmas Day 1908

More than a century later, the events surrounding the men’s deaths are still somewhat of a mystery.

‘God is a Scottish Drag Queen’ coming to the South Okanagan

Comedian Mike Delamont’s show opens on March 14 at Venables Theatre in Oliver.

Kelowna’s Family YMCA opens doors on Family Day

The entire day was free for the community

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

RCMP report woman arrested after ramming police cruiser

Suspect wanted for crimes allegedly committed in Kelowna, Salmon Arm and 100 Mile House

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route

Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home

B.C. budget expected to stay the course as economic growth moderates

Finance minister said ICBC costs have affected budget

Canadian standards for coronavirus protection to be reviewed, health agency says

The protocols set out how health workers should protect themselves and their patients

Kelowna RCMP arrest alleged impaired driver

The driver is facing potential charges after power pole collision

Most Read