A company must apply for our approval before drilling a well in Alberta. If we approve the application, the company receives a well licence and becomes responsible for all well activities.
For various reasons, the company may decide to suspend a well. Often a well is suspended because it is not considered to be economically viable at the time, but it could be in the future. In most cases, companies choose to wait for improved technology, infrastructure, or commodity pricing before continuing production.
How a Well Is Suspended
Before a well is considered suspended, it must first pass through an inactive phase. An inactive well is one that hasn’t produced oil or gas, injected fluids, or disposed of waste for 6 or 12 months, depending on the type of well and its potential risks to the public or environment.
At the end of this period, the well is considered inactive. In its inactive state, the well also isn’t producing oil or gas, injecting fluids, or disposing of waste.
To suspend an inactive well, a company must notify us and perform a series of procedures to ensure that the well poses no risk to the public and environment. Many of our requirements to suspend wells and safely maintain them are set out in Directive 013: Suspension Requirements for Wells.
As long as a well is suspended, the company must continue to meet these requirements. Wells can remain suspended until the company determines that the well is no longer needed for energy development and can be abandoned.
Audits, Inspections, and Enforcement
Companies must inspect their suspended wells on a regular basis and report their findings to us. Requirements for inspections are set out in Directive 013.
We conduct regular audits to ensure that companies are complying with our suspension requirements. If we find that a company is not following our requirements, we will use one of our many enforcement tools to bring the company back into compliance. If we request the company’s inspection information, the company must present this information within 20 days or face enforcement action.
Reactivating Suspended Wells
To reactivate a suspended well, a company must
- inspect, service, and pressure test the wellhead;
- inspect and service control systems and lease facilities;
- retain all records; and
- notify us of the well’s reactivation through our Digital Data Submission system.
Our complete list of requirements for reactivating a suspended well our set out in Directive 013.
- How are wells abandoned?
- Fact sheet: Closure – Abandonment, Reclamation, and Remediation
- Resource story: A Sweet End for Sour Wells
- Resource story: All’s Well That Ends Well