The Alberta government is launching new pilot projects to test ways to speed up oil and gas well site reclamation while protecting the environment.

Reclamation is an important part of oil and gas projects, and it’s essential that well sites are safely, quickly and effectively reclaimed for future generations. Alberta’s government seeks to ensure companies clean up their sites when decommissioned and is exploring new ways to make that process clearer.

“These pilots demonstrate our commitment to reducing red tape while ensuring that all companies clean up their sites when decommissioned,” said Rebecca Schulz, Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Protected Areas. “The pilots are the first step in improving the current reclamation certificate issuance process for well sites and associated facilities. If successful, they will help make the reclamation process faster, clearer and more effective.”

In the coming months, the province will launch two new pilots aimed at helping improve the current reclamation certificate process while maintaining the highest environmental standards. These pilots will test ways to certify portions of reclaimed sites and help reclaim peatlands.

The Well Site Reduction Pilot will enable the Alberta Energy Regulator to certify portions of a well site that meet government reclamation standards rather than waiting until the entire site is reclaimed. The optional pilot will be limited to up to 100 applications, and landowner consent is required to participate in the program.

The Reclaiming Peatland Pilot will provide a new support tool for well site operators to use when preparing a request to change from peatlands to forest lands. This framework will improve site-specific considerations and logistics related to well or access roads in peatlands.

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The Alberta Energy Regulator will launch both pilots in early 2024. Once each is completed, Alberta’s government will carefully assess the results before determining how to proceed.

In addition, Alberta’s government is endorsing the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada’s (PTAC) report on weeds in the forested region, which will make it clearer for operators to apply for reclamation certificates. This report will help operators prepare requests for minor weed variances that contribute to less environmental impact and more cost-effective measures during the reclamation certification process.

Under the Well Site Reduction Pilot, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) will be able to issue a reclamation certificate certifying that the portion of a well site meets government reclamation standards on private land. The pilot will be launched by the AER in February 2024 and will run until August 2025. Additional information will be announced when the pilot launches.

Under the Reclaiming Peatland Pilot, eligible operators will be able to apply to the AER for clay pad materials to remain in place when reclaiming sites to a forested landscape based on agreed parameters. The pilot will be launched by the AER in February 2024 and will run until July 2025. Additional information will be announced when the pilot launches.

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Featured image credit: Getty Images

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