Pollution, management, and mitigation of idle and orphaned oil and gas wells in Alberta, Canada

  • Vanessa Alboiu
  • Tony R. WalkerEmail author


Alberta has extensive non-renewable energy resources which contribute to the Canadian economy. A downturn in oil and gas energy prices in 2014 contributed to increased idle and orphaned wells, posing potential environmental and human health risks, as well as an economic burden on the province of Alberta. Idle and orphaned wells contribute to local adverse environmental and human health effects from soil and groundwater contamination to greenhouse gas emissions. With increasing numbers of idle and orphaned wells, current monitoring measures, including regulation and cost to identify well leakage, are insufficient. Current policy measures to manage idle and orphaned well environmental liabilities were found to be inadequate to cover cleanup costs. With oil and gas prices showing no signs of rebound, these idle and orphaned well liabilities need to be addressed. This paper discusses potential environmental risks that idle and orphaned oil and gas wells pose, compares Alberta’s current monitoring and policy initiatives to those in other provinces as well as the USA, and recommends future management strategies to mitigate the issue.


Oil and gas wells Idle and orphan wells Well leaks Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions Environmental liabilities 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10661_2019_7780_MOESM1_ESM.docx (35 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 35.3 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School for Resource and Environmental StudiesDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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