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Study says easing rules on transfer of unreclaimed oil wells could speed cleanup

CALGARY — A report says Alberta should lower regulatory barriers that discourage businesses from reusing abandoned oil and gas wells.

The Canada West Foundation says that could include allowing companies to sell off defunct energy infrastructure without completely cleaning it up.

The study says that could make it easier for industries involving geothermal power, lithium production or solar energy to use parts of old sites that are still useful. 

The foundation says the Alberta Energy Regulator also has to decide how it wants to regulate those industries and how the new ventures could mesh with current oil and gas rules.

Regan Boychuk of the Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project — which monitors the impact of abandoned wells on landowners — calls the plan a way for industry to shift cleanup costs elsewhere.

Boychuk points out that only a small percentage of wells are suitable for geothermal or solar projects.

Report co-author Juli Rohl says the sites could also be turned into greenhouses or even municipal parks, but acknowledges the plan wouldn’t entirely solve Alberta’s problem with thousands of abandoned wells. 

The Canadian Press