The drop in oil prices coupled with new regulations and changes in drilling have prompted a lot of junior oil companies to walk away from their wells. In fact the numbers of orphaned wells have jumped dramatically, going from 162 to 702 in the past year.
The problem now is the clean up. For the past 20 years the Alberta Energy Regulator has had a program in place to reclaim the land the wells are on (along with pipelines and other sites). It’s not a cheap process, with price tags anywhere between 10-thousand dollars to millions.
One last thing – this does not happen quickly. Since its inception the reclamation program has worked on about 30 wells per year. At that rate and assuming the number doesn’t go up, it will take almost a quarter century to get the job done on the number of orphaned wells currently in the province.