Alberta gas company Trident Exploration Corp. has walked away from more than 4,400 licensed wells, leaving the province’s energy regulator in the lurch over finding a new operator for the sites.
The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) said it had been working with Trident to address concerns about the company’s ability to continue operating, looking to ensure the wells’ end-of-life obligations would be met and that assets would be handed over to responsible operators.
However, the AER said Trident ceased operations anyway and didn’t respond to its order to meet obligations.
It said the company terminated employees and contractors, and then resigned.
“The AER will ensure that the public and the environment are protected and will assess any high-risk sites to ensure there are no immediate risks,” the regulator said in a news release.
Of Trident’s 4,400 wells, the AER said, many of them are still active.
The regulator said most of its operations are in natural gas, a sector that has seen several years of low prices.
Despite the weak prices, the AER said that it has a responsibility to ensure safety and environmental requirements are met.
Addressing end-of-life obligations are essential to responsible energy development, it said, adding the AER has a responsibility to uphold the Supreme Court’s ruling that stated financial matters don’t have priority over environmental responsibilities.
The AER said it will pursue all options to ensure Trident’s infrastructure is transferred to responsible owners, safely de-commissioned or, as a last resort, transferred to the Orphan Well Association.
“Many of Trident’s wells were still operating and, once transferred to responsible operators, can still contribute to royalties, keep Albertans working, and deliver value to our economy,” the AER said.
More than 3,000 orphan wells are awaiting remediation in the province.
Anyone who has concerns with Trident sites are asked to call the AER 24-hour line at 800-222-6514.