Companies profiting from the province’s energy resources must safely and responsibly suspend and abandon (“decommission”) their energy infrastructure, and reclaim their energy development sites. As energy infrastructure nears the end of its life cycle and is no longer needed, we ensure that wells, pipelines, mines, and facilities are taken out of service safely, with no harm to the public or the environment.
This page includes general information about what we expect from companies, and how we help ensure that they suspend and abandon their projects responsibly.
Companies regularly stop using certain wells, pipelines, facilities, or mines for a short period of time to perform routine maintenance. The infrastructure is considered “shut in” when it’s in this state. However, if a well, pipeline, or facility is shut in for longer than 6 or 12 months (depending on the type of site and its potential risks to the public or environment), and is not being used, it is considered inactive. The company must do additional work to suspend the well or facility, or discontinue the pipeline to ensure that the public and environment are protected while it’s inactive.
To suspend a gas well, for example, a company must plug the wellbore far below the surface and must lock up the well so that it can’t be turned on without the company’s permission. Learn how wells are suspended in Alberta.
When energy infrastructure has been suspended and is no longer needed, the company that owns it must permanently dismantle it. Our requirements for how this is done vary by the type of infrastructure. Just as every energy project and activity is different, so are our abandonment requirements.
For example, pipelines must be emptied, purged, isolated, and left in a safe condition so that there are no risks to the public or environment. Abandoned pipelines are often left in the ground so that the land and soil are not further disrupted. The process to abandon a pipeline is different than the process to abandon other infrastructure, such as a well. Learn how wells are abandoned in Alberta.
Even after a company has successfully abandoned its infrastructure, it remains permanently responsible for maintaining it in accordance with our requirements.
Protecting Albertans From the Costs of Abandonment
We administer or help administer several liability management programs in the province to ensure that companies—not Albertans—cover the financial costs of abandoning their energy sites.
The Orphan Well Association (OWA) is a nonprofit association that manages the abandonment of upstream oil and gas wells, pipelines, facilities, and the remediation and reclamation of their associated sites if a company responsible for these projects goes bankrupt. When this happens, the energy sites and projects become “orphans.”
The OWA is funded by an annual levy paid by energy companies in Alberta. Learn more about the OWA and the orphan levy.
Rules and Requirements
Our rules and requirements for suspending and abandoning energy developments are listed on our Liability Management page.
- Aging Infrastructure
- Orphan Energy Sites
- Fact sheet: Closure – Abandonment, Reclamation, and Remediation
- Resource story: A Sweet End for Sour Wells
- Resource story: All’s Well That Ends Well