Sask oil companies complete record oil well abandonments

(photo by Greg Nikkel)

Saskatchewan’s oil and gas companies have continued their commitment to environmental stewardship by responsibly completing a record number of oil and gas well abandonments in 2019 and into 2020.

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The province saw a total of 2,030 well abandonments completed between April 1, 2019, and February 29, 2020. This represents an increase of more than 40 per cent compared to 2018-19 and 240 per cent compared to 2016-17.

An abandoned well is one that is no longer supporting a company’s oil and gas development and has been decommissioned to a safe and environmentally-sound condition. This includes plugging the downhole producing zones, cutting off the well casing below the surface and sealing it with a welded cap.

“Saskatchewan’s oil and gas sector is one of the most environmentally responsible in the world,” Energy and Resources Minister Bronwyn Eyre said. “This increase in well abandonments demonstrates the commitment by industry and government to manage the entire life-cycle of provincial wells and ensure the safe retirement of unused infrastructure to protect our environment, landowners and the public.”

In July 2019, the Government of Saskatchewan implemented changes to Directive PNG015: Well Abandonment Requirements, which resulted in a more streamlined process and contains clear standards for oil and gas companies to responsibly abandon oil and gas wells.

The revised directive is a result of extensive consultation with industry, which pays for well decommissioning. In all cases, the regulatory arm of the Ministry of Energy and Resources oversees and carries out technical reviews, as part of the decommissioning process, to ensure sites are abandoned and reclaimed to an environmentally-sound standard.

“These changes have allowed companies to conduct well abandonments in a more efficient and timely manner, which has resulted in this significant increase,” Eyre said. “Timely abandonment strengthens the long-term financial health of oil operators and supports future investment in the oil and gas sector.”

“We appreciate the provincial government’s efforts to enhance the efficiency of the closure process, thereby accelerating the reclamation of inactive oil and natural gas sites in Saskatchewan,” Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) Vice-President of Western Canada Operations Brad Herald said. “CAPP is committed to continuing collaboration with the Government of Saskatchewan to develop a long-term strategy to manage closure and liability issues in the upstream oil and natural gas industry.”

“Canadian Natural is focused on proactively managing our liabilities with continued increases in our abandonment activity in Saskatchewan,” Canadian Natural Resources Limited Senior Vice President of Development Operations Bill Peterson said. “We are strongly committed to working together with the Government of Saskatchewan to effectively and efficiently abandon wells, reclaim land, and reduce liability while continuing to invest in the responsible development of Saskatchewan’s resources.”