Updated December 2022
This EnerFAQs provides information about the Alberta Energy Regulator’s (AER’s) inspection and enforcement program. It describes what we inspect and how.
- Who is responsible for the inspection of energy facilities in Alberta?
- Why does the AER do inspections?
- What does the AER inspect?
- Where are the AER inspectors located?
- What authority do AER inspectors have?
- How often do AER inspectors check energy facilities?
- How is a well or facility chosen for an inspection?
- How detailed are these inspections?
- What happens when unsatisfactory items are found during an inspection?
- What happens if the problems are not corrected?
- Where do I call with questions or complaints about a specific site?
- What if I don’t know the name of the company?
- Should I contact a government department myself?
- Who makes the rules and sets the standards for energy development?
- Additional Information
Who is responsible for the inspection of energy facilities in Alberta?
The AER is responsible for inspecting energy resource activities and ensuring all requirements are followed by enforcing the standards, specifications, and conditions within our authority.
Why does the AER do inspections?
The AER works with industry through inspections, surveillance activities, intervention, and education to verify and ensure compliance with all requirements. All these activities are conducted through the AER’s compliance assurance program on behalf of our stakeholders. By conducting inspections, the AER ensures that energy resource activity in Alberta occurs safely, protects the environment, and adheres to all regulatory requirements. For more information, see our compliance assurance program.
What does the AER inspect?
AER employees inspect Alberta’s oil, natural gas, oil sands, coal, geothermal resources, in situ, pipelines, and exploration activities on public and private lands where energy resource activity occurs. Inspections include
- scheduled inspections based on operator history, site sensitivity, and inherent risk of the facility or operation,
- unscheduled, unannounced inspections based on reports or complaints from the public, and
- inspections to ensure that procedures and equipment are in use to minimize environmental impacts.
- take a product or material sample
- conduct tests or take measurements
- require that information, data, records, reports, and documents be provided
- record or take copies or extracts of information data, records, reports, and documents
- use computer systems to examine available data
- use copying equipment to make copies of information
- make reasonable inquires of any person
- take photographs or electronic or audio-visual records
- remove from the site information, data, records, reports, and documents for examination
- require that equipment be operated or set in motion under conditions that the AER specifies
- use or move any machine, structure, material, or equipment to carry out the inspection
AER inspectors also have the authority to impose remedial measures, such as shutting in a well or shutting down a facility if necessary. Inspectors may also issue a stop order requiring the partial or total halting of activity or land use.
How often do AER inspectors check energy facilities?
Inspections occur at selected stages of an energy resource activity, depending on the type of activity and its inspection history. Other reasons for inspection include
- investigating a public complaint,
- investigating an incident, or
- resulting from an operator’s history or activities.
How is a well or facility chosen for an inspection?
Facilities and wells are selected for inspection using a risk-informed system that identifies wells and facilities based on their inherent risk to public and environmental safety. The AER uses the targeted inspection approach to assess compliance at specific facilities, wells, events, activities, or licensees that indicate an elevated risk.
The AER also carries out unscheduled, unannounced inspections based on reports or complaints from the public and inspections to ensure that procedures and equipment are in use to minimize environmental effects.
How detailed are these inspections?
Inspectors check to ensure that operators follow sound operating practices and meet all AER requirements and conditions of approval. AER inspectors explain rules and analyze procedures with the operator to ensure high levels of operational performance for safety and environmental performance.
What happens when unsatisfactory items are found during an inspection?
Depending on the seriousness of the problem, AER inspectors may give the operator time to correct unsatisfactory items. If the problem is a danger to people or the environment, the inspector can order the facility to shut down or the activity to stop until the problem is resolved.
What happens if the problems are not corrected?
Where an operator fails to take corrective action, the AER has enforcement tools such as administrative penalties, prosecution, enforcement orders, and the shutting down of an operation until full compliance is demonstrated. The use of these tools depends on the noncompliance identified. For example, a company failing to submit a required monitoring report would face less severe consequences than it would for releasing a toxic substance into the environment with serious consequences, possibly resulting in prosecution.
If an operator is unable or unwilling to correct a problem or take appropriate measures within a specified period, the AER may shut down the facility or order the activity to stop.
Where do I call with questions or complaints about a specific site?
First, call the company’s local office and raise your concerns. Company contact information may be found on the sign posted at the lease or pipeline right-of-way. If a company does not rectify your concerns, contact the AER.
What if I don’t know the name of the company?
Call the Energy and Environmental 24-hour Response Line (1-800-222-6514), explain the problem and give the location of the well or facility. AER field staff will then make the necessary inquiries. The AER responds to all public complaints. AER inspectors will contact the company, determine the problem, order corrections when necessary, and report back to you.
Identifying a problem, specifying corrective action, and following up to ensure it has been resolved is a standard process for an AER inspector.
Should I contact a government department myself?
Yes, if you know who is responsible for your particular concern. If unsure, call the Energy and Environmental 24-Hour Response Line (1-800-222-6514) and staff will give you a contact name and telephone number.
For more information on these or any other energy-related issues, visit the AER’s website at www.aer.ca.
Who makes the rules and sets the standards for energy development?
The AER establishes many of the rules governing energy facilities, operations, and activity in the province. However, other government departments are also involved. For example, the AER operates under the policies of the Government of Alberta and applicable requirements established under specified enactments.
By means of Alberta’s “one-window” approach to energy development, companies submit all applications for energy facilities to the AER, which informs and involves government departments according to established agreements.
For more information on the AER and its processes or if you wish to speak to your local field centre or have questions about energy resource development in Alberta, contact the AER’s Customer Contact Centre: Monday to Friday (8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) at 1-855-297-8311 (toll free).
Each year the AER collects, compiles, and publishes a large amount of technical data and information about Alberta’s energy development and resources for use by industry and the public. This includes raw data, statistics, hearing materials, and information on rules, policies, and decisions.
Publications may be downloaded free of charge from the AER website (www.aer.ca) or made available through the Products and Services Catalogue by contacting Data & Information Services (e-mail @email).
Energy and Environmental 24-hour Response Line (emergencies and complaints): 1-800-222-6514 (toll free)