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DATE ISSUED: Feb. 16, 2021

The BC Oil and Gas Commission (Commission) has made significant progress over the last few years, decommissioning over half of British Columbia’s 770 orphan well sites. It’s a key step on the path to full restoration of orphan sites, which requires multiple stages.

In addition to the planned $30 million collected from levies on oil and gas operators to restore orphan sites, B.C. received $15 million from the federal government’s COVID-19 stimulus package in April 2020 to address orphan site restoration. All orphan work is required to be performed by qualified service providers that are registered in B.C. The Commission is supporting the communities where the majority of energy development occurs by using service providers based in northeast B.C.

"The Orphan Sites Supplemental Reclamation Program benefits both our economy and environment, providing jobs for local workers and reducing the impacts of oil and gas development in the Northeast," said Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, Bruce Ralston.

Last year the Commission created an online web portal where 80 orphan sites were nominated and were evaluated for funding. Two were nominated by local governments, seven by land owners, and 71 nominated by Indigenous communities.

“This is an important step in ensuring those directly affected by orphan wells have a say in their restoration”, said BC Oil and Gas Commissioner & CEO, Paul Jeakins. “Working in partnership with local governments, land owners, and Indigenous communities will result in meaningful reclamation on the land.”

Working with Indigenous communities is an important part of the Commission’s orphan restoration efforts. Work that includes implementing pilot projects and field programs with Treaty 8 communities, providing opportunities for community knowledge to be employed in project work, as well as economic opportunities for Indigenous service providers. There are seven Indigenous-owned contractors doing restoration work on orphan sites through existing programs, and another two local service providers that have agreements with Indigenous communities.

Over the past few years, the Commission has been accelerating the restoration of orphan sites. With the release of the Comprehensive Liability Management Plan in May 2019, funding for orphan sites was increased through a liability levy on industry. The plan also aimed to modernize liability management and increase the rate of inactive site restoration through the Dormancy and Shutdown Regulation.

Between April 2020 and March 2021, almost 100 wells will be decommissioned, more than 90 equipment sites will be decommissioned, more than 50 sites will be remediated and at least 50 sites will be fully reclaimed. The significant progress being made on decommissioning activities will allow for increased focus on completing restoration work on remaining orphan sites.

Well decommissioning refers to the permanent plugging of a well and removing the wellhead, while site decommissioning means any surface equipment has been removed from the site. Reclamation is the replacement of soils and revegetation, which after monitoring, has met all necessary requirements and is eligible for a Certificate of Restoration. Following reclamation, a Certificate of Restoration can take up to several years to achieve.

An orphan designation can be given to wells and facilities, and associated operating areas, when the operator is insolvent or cannot be located. Once designated, the Commission’s Orphan Site Reclamation Fund is used to address risks to public safety and carry out clean-up and closure.

If you have any questions regarding this News Release, please contact:

For media inquiries:

Phil Rygg

Director, Public & Corporate Relations

BC Oil and Gas Commission


For technical inquiries:

Mike Janzen

Director, Orphan Planning and Restoration

BC Oil and Gas Commission


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