Alberta will loan $235 million to a non-profit group that cleans up abandoned oil and gas wells, Premier Rachel Notley announced Thursday.
The province is littered with old wells, with more than 150,000 in varying degrees of decline. Some have been orphaned, meaning their owners are out of business and can’t clean up the problem.
The $235 million be lent to the Orphan Well Association, with the interest covered by $30 million from the federal government announced in the last budget.
“The agreement will put people to work as early this summer and will go toward cleaning up orphaned wells over the next three years,” Notley said.
Notley made the announcement on an orphan well site near Carstairs, north of Calgary. The well was drilled in 1980, saw 10 different owners and was orphaned in 2015.
“By the end of this summer, you won’t be able to tell there was even a well here,” she said.
Thousands of wells on list
The loan will be paid back over 10 years by the Orphan Well Association, which collects funds from the oil and gas industry. It closed 185 wells last year, but has another 2,084 on its list.
Notley says the terms of the loan is much better than what the association could get on its own.
The plan doesn’t replace an industry-run fund to clean up wells, Notley said.
Tens of thousands of Alberta’s wells have been abandoned and plugged with concrete, but not fully reclaimed. And 82,546 are inactive, meaning no more oil or natural gas is being produced, but the wells haven’t been plugged and could, at least theoretically, be brought back to life.