How are Wells Suspended


How are Wells Suspended

When oil and gas operators receive a drilling licence from the AER, they also become responsible for all well activities. In some cases, a licensee may choose to suspend a well. A well is considered suspended when it has been inactive for either 6 or 12 months, depending on the type of well.

A licensee typically suspends a well because it is not currently considered to be economically viable but could become so in the future with improved technology, infrastructure, or commodity pricing. To suspend a well, an operator must notify the AER and perform a series of procedures to ensure that the well poses no risk to the public and environment while it is inactive.

Auditing and Enforcement
A well is only considered suspended by the AER when operators meet all requirements in Directive 013: Suspension Requirements for Wells. The directive outlines inspection, monitoring, and pressure-testing requirements. Licensees are also required to perform frequent inspections on suspended wells, and all subsequent data must be reported to the AER within 30 days of an inspection. 

Under AER requirements, licensees must keep all test results and details for suspended wells until such a time as they are abandoned. To ensure compliance with regulations, licensees are subject to audits by the AER. In the event of an audit, licensees must provide all information to the AER within 20 days of the AER’s request. 

The AER’s enforcement process is specified in Manual 13: Compliance and Enforcement Program. A key role of the Alberta Energy Regulator is ensuring that operators comply with all regulatory requirements and that there is an appropriate enforcement response when a noncompliance is identified. 

Using the compliance assurance program, the AER facilitates efficient and effective compliance through education, prevention, and enforcement. Where noncompliance is discovered, the AER has a powerful suite of enforcement tools to ensure that the company in question immediately addresses any underlying issue, corrects the noncompliance, and make certain it complies with requirements in the future.

The Compliance Dashboard demonstrates how the AER is involved in incident response, investigations, compliance, and enforcement. The AER also publishes a number of educational resources—presentations, FAQs, brochures, and guidance information—that relate to AER directives, rules, and regulations.

Reactivating Suspended Wells
To reactivate suspended wells, licensees must
  • inspect, service, and pressure test the wellhead;
  • inspect and service control systems and lease facilities;
  • retain all records; and
  • report reactivation of the well to the AER through the Digital Data Submission (DDS) system.