Ontario commits $26 million to find and cap old oil and gas wells

Ontario Construction New staff writer

The Ontario government will spend $23.6 million to develop a province-wide strategy that includes identifying and plugging old oil and gas wells. An additional $2.5 million will be allocated to Chatham-Kent to assist with costs associated with emergency management from the 2021 explosion in the community of Wheatley.

“This investment represents the first step in our government’s action plan to address the challenges and risks old oil and gas wells pose to communities across Ontario,” said Graydon Smith, minister of natural resources and forestry. “With this funding, Chatham-Kent and other affected municipalities will be able to help keep their communities safe and prevent petroleum-related emergencies in the future.”

Ontario has records for approximately 27,000 oil and gas wells, primarily on private land in southwestern Ontario.

The $23.6 million will be used to develop an oil and gas action plan to help address the risks of old wells and conduct science and research to better understand the risks that old oil and gas wells pose. The funding includes:

  • $7.5 million over three years to directly support municipalities in their efforts to reduce risks and enhance emergency preparedness within their communities. Eligible municipalities will be invited to apply for funding for these activities in the coming weeks.
  • Doubling of the existing Abandoned Works Program over three years to $6 million to support the plugging of old oil and gas wells.

“On behalf of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, we wish to thank the Province of Ontario and various ministries for their commitment to reviewing and addressing the difficulties municipalities are grappling with due to the challenges posed by legacy oil and gas wells,” said Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff. “We appreciate the financial and technical assistance provided to date and the province’s recognition of the need to provide further assistance.

“This will contribute to the healing of our community and protection of the environment.”

The province has already provided over $25 million to support the investigation, recovery and monitoring activities in Chatham-Kent, as well as support for eligible businesses and residents who were evacuated from their homes.

“We are continuing to listen to our residents and local leaders to ensure our government’s plan addresses the needs of communities across Ontario, including Chatham-Kent,” said Trevor Jones, MPP for Chatham-Kent-Leamington. “This funding will help municipalities address the risks posed by old oil and gas wells and help keep communities safe.”

oil wells stock photo

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry administers the Abandoned Works Program, which supports the plugging of inactive oil and gas wells that are at heightened risk to public safety or the environment by providing financial assistance to eligible landowners. To date, this program has spent $29.5 million to plug 415 wells across the province.

“On behalf of the Ontario Petroleum Institute, I want to commend the Government of Ontario for today’s announcement of new funds to address the risks from legacy oil and gas wells and subsurface gas migration hazards,” said Scott Lewis, Ontario Petroleum Institute chair. “We look forward assisting the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in these endeavors wherever possible.”


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