FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The British Columbia Energy Regulator (BCER) said there are 668 orphan sites within the Peace River Regional District (PRRD) while providing an update to directors on Thursday.
Mike Janzen, executive director of orphans and restoration for the BCER, and Nova Williams, director of orphan planning and restoration for the BCER, explained the process of orphan site restoration at a committee of the whole meeting at the Pomeroy Hotel and Conference Centre in Fort St. John.
Orphan sites are wells, facilities, pipelines, and associated areas where an oil and gas company is declared bankrupt or cannot be located.
The BCER aims to restore sites within 10 years in order to protect public safety along with the environment. Restoration work is funded by industry operators through mandatory contributions to the Orphan Site Reclamation Fund.
There are currently 819 orphan sites within B.C., with 668 located in the PRRD. Janzen and Williams explained the status of the sites, with 24 per cent in progress, 36 per cent decommissioned, 16 per cent assessed, and 24 per cent reclaimed.
There are six steps in the restoration process: deactivation, well decommissioning, site decommissioning, investigation, remediation, and reclamation.
Williams explained to directors the BCER has a $15 million orphan levy that comes from within the industry and funds the majority of the restoration work.
“This coming year, we are looking at completing 376 activities on orphan sites around the province,” said Williams.
“Most of them are within the PRRD, and there are an additional 265 sites that will be considered maintenance sites, which include weed spraying, fence repairs, culvert repairs, etc. But, for the most part, our funding goes directly towards activities to close sites.”
According to Williams, the restoration team currently has approximately six or seven “key areas” of focus in the immediate vicinity of Fort St. John. This is because the area is more populated and has more landowners.
“Our focus has been trying to accelerate the restoration entering the area of Fort St. John,” said Williams.
“We are at the final stage of reclamation in a lot of those areas, at a lot of these sites, which is why we have a continued focus there for the years coming. We have a lot in the South Peace area as well because of all the landowners down there in the farming industry.”
Williams added a significant “uptick” in final reclamation numbers can be expected in the coming years.
Following the presentation, Janzen and Novak asked the board of directors for questions and comments.
District of Taylor Mayor Brent Taillefer suggested the BCER provide more public engagement and communication to keep Peace region residents updated on where work is happening.
“Being the BC energy regulator and public money, it would be nice to see more of that communication out to B.C. residents, specifically in the areas where the work is happening,” said Taillefer.
“I haven’t seen any reports on who’s doing the work, where the companies are doing the work, and who they are, and how that money that’s being spent. I think that’s important information to get out to the people in B.C.”
Janzen responded, saying the BCER will make a real-time list and map of where work is happening available on its website.
“We do have a commitment to transparency,” said Janzen.
“Sometimes we get our heads down, and we’re trying so hard to do the work that we’re not getting the message out. It’s a really good point that we need to continue to bear down and work towards transparency, so thank you for that.”
The BCER’s full presentation and following discussion with directors can be watched here.