A win/win opportunity for workers and the Orphan Well Association
Alberta’s plan to clean up approximately 700 orphan wells over three years is a welcome source for additional jobs in the province.
The Orphan Well Association (OWA) was created to safely shutdown abandoned oil and gas wells, pipelines and production facilities, then restore the land as close to its original state as possible. While funding for the OWA comes from an annual levy paid by the oil and gas industry, in 2018, the Government of Alberta loaned $235 million to the OWA, adding to the industry funding it already receives.
Efforts by the OWA to decommission orphan wells will create 2,000 jobs, mostly in the oil and gas services sub-sector.
Decommissioning orphan wells requires several activities and types of workers
The work to decommission a well includes:
- Identifying all oil and gas formations and groundwater zones connected to the well
- Removing production tools
- Evaluating the integrity of the well and making any necessary repairs
- Plugging each well access point with cement
- Filling the well with water or other non-corrosive fluid
- Cutting the casing below surface and placing a vented cap on top of the well casing
- Removing equipment and buildings
- Replacing the topsoil and vegetation so the land can be returned to its original state or serve another purpose
There are typically 29 to 35 workers on site to decommission a well. The types of workers required include:
- Oil and gas well drillers, servicers, testers and related workers
- Oil and gas well drilling and related workers and services operators
- Transport truck drivers
- Heavy equipment operators (except crane)
- Inspectors in public and environmental health and occupational health and safety
- Engineering inspectors and regulatory officers
- Crane operators
- Contractors and supervisors, oil and gas drilling and services
- Paramedical occupations
- Welders and related machine operators
- Oil and gas drilling, servicing and related labourers
- Construction trades helpers and labourers
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