VANCOUVER — The latest round of applications is now open under a $100-million fund aimed at cleaning dormant oil and gas wells in British Columbia.

B.C. Energy Minister Bruce Ralston says the second half of the funding is set to be dispersed in the coming months after the first $50 million supported about 1,000 jobs and reclamation activities at nearly 1,900 sites.

He says the first round included $15 million worth of work on sites in B.C.’s agricultural land reserve and dormant well sites located in habitat that is critical to the at-risk northern mountain population of woodland caribou.

The province is receiving $120 million in federal funds after Ottawa pledged $1.7 billion in April to help B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan clean up thousands of inactive and so-called orphan oil and gas wells. 

Ralston says he expects the latest funding will create a similar number of jobs as the first, with priority going to local and Indigenous workers.

He says field service workers will be matched with sites nominated for cleanup by Indigenous communities, local governments and landowners. 

“By aligning the nomination and the application processes, we’re able to ensure that local knowledge and concerns get first priority,” Ralston told a news conference Thursday, adding the reclamation work supports jobs during the economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bulk of B.C.’s $120-million share of the federal funding is aimed at cleaning up more than 8,500 dormant wells, which are sites that have been inactive for five years and aren’t likely to return to service.

The program provides eligible companies up to $100,000 or 50 per cent of the cost of a site cleanup, whichever is less.

B.C. has also earmarked $15 million to address 770 orphan wells, or sites owned by companies that are insolvent, can’t be located or no longer exist. 

Another $5 million is set aside to address legacy sites and the impacts of historical oil and gas activities on communities and wildlife.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2021.

The Canadian Press