Ambition: This initiative aims to take a regulatory approach to encouraging the redevelopment of oil and gas infrastructure for new economic and social benefits. By addressing systemic barriers that limit the ability of entrepreneurs, who want to both solve the inactive / orphan well problem and create new energy opportunities, this initiative will result in a healthy economy, Indigenous leadership and stronger communities.
Currently, there are over 90,000 inactive wells in Alberta. The wind-down of the productive life of hydrocarbon assets in Alberta creates — at the same time — both an enormous environmental and financial liability, and a high-value opportunity for cleantech innovation. This project, led in partnership with the Canada West Foundation, is designed to eliminate the regulatory hurdle that stops inactive assets in Alberta from being able to have a new productive life.
Many organizations and entrepreneurs are pursuing creative approaches to create value from inactive wells and facilities, such as repurposing them for geothermal, hydrogen or lithium, repurposing the site for renewable energy use, or alternative agriculture. These innovative cleantech uses would create economic opportunities as well as prevent some inactive wells and facilities from becoming orphaned. If successful, addressing the regulatory barriers to redevelopment of this infrastructure would enhance the success of many other key EFL Initiatives such as geothermal, lithium, hydrogen, and solar development in Alberta.
A clear pathway to redevelopment is needed to enable many of these projects that aim to reduce GHG emissions, create jobs, and attract investment. Removing the regulatory obstacles will hopefully pave the way for that success.
In Alberta, almost all of these innovations die in their early stages due to regulations that do not allow them to take place. The regulations that are problematic relate to:
- a regime that only allows for remediation or reclamation, and not for repurposing of land
- liability transfer
- JWN Energy: Wells as a solution: Why drilling should lead our economic recovery (March 30, 2020)
- Calgary Herald: Opinion: Old wells, new life and a major economic opportunity (April 16, 2020): https://calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-old-wells-new-life-and-a-major-economic-opportunity/wcm/450705ad-884b-4bc4-aa64-b53a44f3d895/
- CBC: How Alberta could breathe new life into old oil wells – without pumping any crude (May 1, 2020): https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/orphan-wells-repurposed-for-other-uses-1.5547701
- LEAD (Leveraging our Energy Assets for Diversification) Report: This document presents a set of recommendations for creating regulatory certainty for repurposing oil and gas sites for new uses to the Alberta government that have come out of the LEAD project (a dedicated, multi-stakeholder effort from September 2019 to March 2021).