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

UPDATE: One dead after house fire in rural Maple Ridge

Dewdney Trunk Road closed, traffic being re-routed

Salvation Army will help 500-plus students with school supplies

Ridge Meadows Ministries taking registrations and raising funds

Coles-Lyster hits podium during Superweek

Maple Ridge cyclist to compete at Pan American Games

Sands wins another grueling uphill race

Maple Ridge woman holds record for the Grouse Grind

Classic cars on display in Memorial Peace Park in Maple Ridge

Vintage Car Club holds show next to Haney Farmers Market

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Canadian high school science courses behind on climate change, says UBC study

Researchers found performance on key areas varies by province and territory

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

Highway 1 closed near Revelstoke

No estimated time for opening

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Most Read