General Information

A change on your land…

All or some of the oil and gas infrastructure on your land is now under the care of the Alberta Orphan Well Association (OWA). The OWA steps in to ensure infrastructure is safely decommissioned after a company has declared bankruptcy and is no longer able to operate (called “orphans”). The infrastructure on your land is being reviewed and will be included in our plans for field work.

Due to the recent downturn, the OWA is actively working on thousands of locations in the Province, and prioritize our work based on ensuring public safety and cost efficiencies.

Who we are…

The OWA operates under the legal authority of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), and is a not-for-profit, industry-funded organization that will decommission, and reclaim all wells, facilities, and pipelines under the OWA’s care. The Association is comprised of a team of technical experts in decommissioning and reclaiming oil and gas sites. The Association uses some of the top contractors and consulting firms in the Province to execute field work.

If you are a landowner, you will be contacted by one of our contractor firms in the next several months to discuss, and get input for, the work that is required on your land.

What you can expect…

The first step in the process (after you have been contacted) is for our contractors to perform an inspection of the infrastructure. At this time, they will ensure everything is safe, and document and photograph all equipment and place OWA signage.

Once the OWA has a good understanding of the equipment in place we will assign a company to safely decommission all oil or gas wells. Sometimes referred to as abandonment, this involves the siting of a service rig where the wells are plugged, cemented, and the surface wellhead cut below the ground so that you can safely cultivate over top of the former well.

Once the well has been decommissioned, surface crews will remove any production equipment and purge and decommission any pipelines. At the end of this stage no equipment will remain, and the site is ready for remediation and reclamation.

Our remediation and reclamation crews will carefully examine the site and clean up any contamination that may be present. Once this is completed, any gravel will be removed, topsoil replaced, and the lease and access road returned to the same land use as the surrounding area (e.g. cultivated, pasture, forest, etc.). Ultimately a Reclamation Certificate will be obtained from the AER for this work. The land can now be used as it was before any infrastructure was there.

What we can and can’t do…

Through the AER, the OWA has the legal right to access and work on any well, facility, or pipeline that has been declared an orphan. The OWA does not take the place of the former operator, and we do not hold any surface lease or license for the well or infrastructure. We will always do our best to work with, and communicate openly, with landowners and other stakeholders to ensure your voice has been heard and to get your input on outcomes on your land.

Not all of the defunct sites on your land may come to the OWA. The OWA only manages sites that are designated as Orphans by the AER. Any sites with viable partners do not come into the program.

All work that we undertake strictly adheres to AER and Alberta Environment and Parks regulations and requirements.

The OWA is not able to pay any surface rentals that you may be owed by the former operator. However, landowners may be eligible for reimbursement through the Surface Rights Board of Alberta.


Q: How do I get paid for the surface lease on my land?

A: The OWA receives the legal right of entry to conduct our work on orphans through the provincial government and not from a standard oil and gas company lease agreement with the landowner. The OWA is unable to compensate landowners for unpaid surface lease rentals from the defunct or insolvent company. If you would like to inquire about receiving lease payments for your land, please contact the Alberta Surface Rights Board (dial toll free 310-0000, then 780-427-2444 or visit

Q: I have multiple sites on my land, will the OWA handle all of these?

A: The OWA is only authorized to abandon and reclaim sites and assets that have been deemed orphans by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). Only wells and facilities that were 100% owned by a defunct company are turned over to the OWA. Any wells or associated infrastructure that continue to have viable partners (some percent working interest) are the responsibility of the working interest partners. These partners are directed by the AER to perform abandonment and reclamation work. They will later apply to the OWA to recover the costs attributable to the defunct company. For these locations, please contact the AER at 1-855-297-8311 or at