Ontario to address risks posed by abandoned oil and gas wells

Ontario is investing $26 million to help protect communities from petroleum-related emergencies

The plan is expected to include a system to identify and plug spent wells in an effort to keep affected communities safe.  Globe and Mail photo by Craig Glover.

The government of Ontario announced last week that it will invest $25.6 million to develop a province-wide strategy to clean up old and abandoned oil and gas wells.

The plan is expected to include a system to identify and plug spent wells in an effort to keep affected communities safe.

“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.”

The Province of Ontario is also allocating $2.5 million to the Municipality of Chatham-Kent to assist with costs associated with an explosion in the community of Wheatly, located southeast of Windsor.  In August of 2021, an explosion rocked downtown Wheatley, destroying buildings and injuring more than 20 injured people. It is believed the explosion was caused by toxic gas leaking from abandoned wells.

To date, Ontario has invested 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.

The $23.6 million will be used to develop an oil and gas action plan to help address the risks of old wells and research to better understand the risks that old oil and gas wells pose. The funding for the program includes $7.5 million over three years to directly support municipalities in their efforts to reduce risks and enhance emergency preparedness within their communities.

As well, funding for the the existing Abandoned Works Program will be doubled over three years to $6 million to support the plugging of old oil and gas wells.

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

The Doug Ford government says the provincial action plan will continue to be guided by ongoing engagement and feedback from industry, municipalities, Indigenous partners, other key stakeholders, and the public.


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