Addressing safety

The Alberta government is working to address the issue of safety of inactive and abandoned oil and gas sites by:

  • reviewing the existing upstream oil and gas liability management system
  • providing a loan for the Orphan Well Association (OWA) to speed up work to clean up oil and gas sites

The OWA is an industry-funded agency that works to close and reclaim infrastructure from oil and gas companies that no longer exist. This involves removing equipment, sealing wells and ensuring the safety of the site for the public.

Quick facts

  • Alberta has an estimated:
    • 172,000 active wells
    • 91,000 inactive wells
    • 73,000 abandoned wells
  • As of November 1, 2019, the OWA had an inventory of 3,406 orphan wells for abandonment and reclamation and another 2,772 sites for reclamation only.

Upstream oil and gas activity

Subject matter experts and key stakeholders took part in roundtable discussions and provided valuable input throughout the review. The review is aimed at improving the management of historic, current and future liabilities associated with the full life-cycle of upstream oil and gas development. Thank you to all who have provided input.

Participants included:

  • industry
  • landowners
  • indigenous communities
  • environmental groups
  • municipalities

The review is focused on further protecting Albertans and the environment while ensuring Alberta remains a competitive place to invest. The results of these roundtables helped inform policy discussions and operational changes. We are aiming to complete our review and determine next steps.

Reducing orphaned wells

In 2017, the Alberta government loaned the OWA $235 million (PDF, 680 MB) to accelerate the reclamation of oil and gas well sites that no longer have a responsible owner. Under 'A Blueprint for Jobs', announced as part of Budget 2020, the loan is being extended by up to $100 million.

The Alberta government loan extension means:

  • the creation of up to 500 direct and indirect jobs in the oil services sector
  • approximately 1,000 more wells will be decommissioned
  • the OWA can start more than 1,000 additional site assessments for reclamation

The work resulting from this loan will be in addition to the OWA’s ongoing work. The loan will be repaid by industry through the existing orphan fund levy.



  • A well or facility confirmed not to have anyone responsible or able to deal with its closure and reclamation.


  • A well or associated facility where activities have stopped due to technical or economic reasons. Not all sites in this category are orphaned. Many may be reopened and produce again at a later date.


  • A site that is permanently dismantled (plugged, cut and capped) and left in a safe and secure condition.


  • The process of cleaning up a contaminated well site to meet specific soil and groundwater standards.


  • The process of replacing soil and re-establishing vegetation on a wellsite so it can support activities similar to those it could have supported before it was disturbed.


To contact Alberta Energy:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)

Alberta Energy
North Petroleum Plaza
9945 108 Street
Edmonton, Alberta  T5K 2G6