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The BC Energy Regulator (Regulator) has made significant progress, having decommissioned two-thirds of British Columbia’s 766 orphan well sites.

At the end of 2021, 65 per cent of the orphan wells the Regulator is responsible for, have been decommissioned and 18 per cent have been reclaimed.

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 help accelerate orphan site restoration.

The Orphan Sites Supplemental Reclamation Program (OSSRP) is now complete and all of the $15 million has been spent. The total $45 million for all programs between April 2020 and March 2021 went towards completing work on 515 sites. Of those:

  • 106 sites had wells abandoned and/or equipment decommissioned
  • 120 sites underwent investigation activities
  • 21 sites underwent remediation activities
  • 70 sites had reclamation activities completed

Abandoned/decommissioned means the well has been permanently plugged downhole with cement and the well head cut and capped, making it safe for the public and environment. Remediation activities may include the removal and transport of contaminated soil to a licensed facility for disposal and/or treatment, to ensure environmental protection. Reclamation is the final phase of site restoration, where a site’s soils are recontoured and planted to meet appropriate land use productivity standards.

“With the one-time federal funding, we were able to accelerate the progress we’ve been making on cleaning up orphan sites,” says Trevor Swan, the Regulator’s Chief Operating Officer. “We also incorporated feedback from those directly affected by orphan wells--Indigenous communities and local stakeholders--by creating an online web portal to nominate sites for funding.”

Approximately 50 per cent of the $15 million OSSRP funding was directed to 81 sites that were nominated by Indigenous communities, local governments or land owners.

To fully restore the land, the traditional knowledge, skills, and support of Indigenous people is necessary. Over the past two years, the Regulator has engaged with all Treaty 8 Nations to discuss the restoration of oil and gas sites, as part of our commitment to reconciliation.

Almost 20 per cent of the orphan program’s $45 million was directed to Indigenous-owned companies. There are seven Indigenous-owned contractors doing restoration work on orphan sites, and another two local service providers that have partnerships with Treaty 8 Indigenous communities.

In addition to the significant work completed in 2020/21, the Regulator is on track to complete an additional 536 projects on 325 orphan sites by March 31, 2022, funded by an $18 million program that was sourced from the industry paid orphan levy.

For more information on orphans and progress made, go to the Orphans Sites webpage.

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

Lannea Parfitt
Manager, Communications
BC Energy Regulator


Restored site south of Farmington
Restored Orphan Site
Decommissioned Orphan Site