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

Recruitment underway for Hope Fire Department

Training and boot camp coming up in April

Fraser Cascade’s author talk will discuss potlatch history, education

Davidson’s history and education come together for informative presentation

Open house held to learn about Quran in Hope

Society brings religious text, open answers to Hope Recreation Centre

Abbotsford mosque gets online hate for exhibit on Jesus

Event meant to bring community together gets attacked teaching religous differences

Manning Park snowshoe trip planned for familes

Cambie Creek inviting for trekkers of all abilities

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

Fraser Health warns some schools of possible COVID-19 exposure

A sixth COVID-19 patient is a woman in her 30s in the Fraser Health region who recently returned from Iran

High-risk sex offender cuts off ankle bracelet, on the loose in Vancouver: police

Vancouver police said Kirstjon Olson, 38, is a provincial sex offender with 27 court-ordered conditions

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

VIDEO: Giants winning streak ends at 11 after a 2-1 setback Saturday in Everett

Run of wins matched their longest ever regular season winning streak

B.C. money laundering inquiry to begin amid hopes for answers, accountability

Eby argued that most B.C. residents already know the previous government, at best, turned a blind eye

Blockades remain in place as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs returning to B.C.

Hereditary Chief Woos said they are ready to engage in nation-to-nation talks with the B.C.

Most Read