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Study suggests easing rules on transfer of unreclaimed oil wells could speed cleanup

Last Updated Apr 26, 2021 at 12:02 pm MDT

A de-commissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY – A new report says Alberta should lower regulatory barriers that discourage businesses from reusing abandoned oil and gas wells.

The Canada West Foundation said that could include allowing companies to sell off defunct energy infrastructure without completely cleaning it up.

The study said that could make it easier for industries involving geothermal power, lithium production or solar energy to use parts of old sites that are still useful.

The foundation said the Alberta Energy Regulator also has to decide how it wants to regulate those industries and how the new ventures could mesh with current oil and gas rules.

Regan Boychuk of the Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project, which monitors the impact of abandoned wells on landowners, calls the plan a way for industry to shift cleanup costs elsewhere.

Boychuk points out that only a small percentage of wells are suitable for geothermal or solar projects.

Report co-author Juli Rohl said the sites could also be turned into greenhouses or even municipal parks, but acknowledges the plan wouldn’t entirely solve Alberta’s problem with thousands of abandoned wells.