Inconsistent oil prices and repeated ‘boom-and-bust’ cycles have contributed to the growing list of inactive and orphaned oil and gas wells in Western Canada and across the U.S.
Seeking to deal with mounting remediation and reclamation liabilities, federal and regional governments have launched stimulus programs and implemented legislation to encourage the ongoing abandonment, remediation, and reclamation of inactive wells and to provide consistent employment opportunities during economic cycles.
Many of the inactive well sites with outstanding liability are considered ‘legacy’ sites, which could be described as sites constructed, drilled, abandoned, or reclaimed prior to the introduction of modern legislation. These legacy sites pose unique challenges in part due to historical construction practices, landscape level end land use changes, lack of documentation and delicate landowner relationships.
Inactive and Orphan Well Site Management
Our team has been involved in the reduction of environmental liabilities for the oil and gas industry for decades, and currently has hundreds of well sites on progression to closure. Read more about how we have refined our approach and implemented efficiencies with a specific focus on moving legacy sites forward on their unique paths to closure.
Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE)
Leadership in HSSE goes beyond following rules, procedures, or processes during work execution; it starts at the beginning of project planning. Finding consultants and contractors who engrain this into their everyday business and understand the unique hazards of upstream sites, is of utmost importance.
Prime Contractor Approach
With the consultant acting as the Prime Contractor for all remediation and reclamation activities, the pace of work can be increased as there does not need to be a transfer of knowledge between different managers of the site. The consultant can maintain their focus on building partnerships and progressing sites to closure while retaining the services of different subcontractors to execute the various steps along the way.
Working closely with local subcontractors, landowners and indigenous groups, is critical in progressing legacy sites. They provide perspective and historical knowledge that cannot be taken for granted. This knowledge, whether it be regarding the construction practices of the day, making introductions to other stakeholders or understanding local land uses is critical in progressing sites.
A Generation of Development
Legacy sites are approaching 75 to 100 years old, dating back to the onset of the oil boom in Western Canada and the Southern United States. These sites have become a part of the landscape and outlived a generation. Approaching reclamation on this level requires a delicate approach as landownership, adjacent development, and public perspectives have dramatically changed since their construction.
Proactive Stakeholder Engagement
Legacy sites often present challenges for stakeholder engagement. A history of grievances and mistrust along with historical approaches which differ between boom-and-bust times require hard work by a dedicated, consistent group to build relationships and trust. Understanding the history of sites and how they have impacted stakeholders is critical for closure and ensuring objectives are met.
As construction and drilling practices of the day occurred with little knowledge of lasting impacts or regulatory oversite, unorthodox approaches to site closure are necessary. Legacy sites allow for risk-based approaches to closure as they have a long history and provide a distinct perspective of contaminant migration and stabilization.
Begin With the End in Mind
Though historically sites may not have been designed or constructed with their end in mind, the approach to their remediation and reclamation should. As the remediation and reclamation approaches on legacy sites may take much longer than on more contemporary sites, it is critical to work on all aspects of closure in conjunction. This means meeting with stake holders and implementing progressive reclamation during assessment and remediation activities.
A Balanced Portfolio
By working on a mixture of sites within a portfolio, complex sites which may take years to close can be moved forward in conjunction with less demanding sites, thus reducing liabilities without leaving all the legacy sites until the end.
Area Based Closure
Efficiencies can be realized by working on several sites in the same geographic area at one time. Performing remediation and reclamation activities on multiple sites in a smaller area can reduce equipment mobilization costs between sites and can often be completed using preferred rates from subcontractors for executing larger volumes of work.
The demand for oil and gas resources may have risen in North America, after many countries abandoned using Russian oil and gas supplies following its invasion of Ukraine, but the environmental remediation of the orphan wells has continued. However, we expect investment in these reclamations to continue as communities look to improve their natural environment in the wake of the changing climate.
To learn more about how our team can assist with all types of land reclamation and rehabilitation projects, visit our Contaminated Land and Soil Remediation page.