In April 2021, we released our report for the LEAD Project: Leveraging our Energy Assets for Diversification (LEAD) on a path forward to repurpose Alberta’s inactive oil and gas well sites for new energy developments.

We are so pleased to share with you that the joint Canada West Foundation and Energy Futures Lab project has now won a Canada’s Clean50 Top Project Award The award is given in recognition of contributions towards clean capitalism and sustainability development in Canada.

Canada’s Clean50 Top Project Awards are amongst the awards announced annually by Delta Management Group and the Canada’s Clean50 organization, to recognize the best sustainability-oriented projects completed in Canada over the prior two years. Projects are chosen based on a five“I”s criteria: Impactful, Innovative, Inspiring, Informative and can readily be Imitated. Delta’s criteria in determining Project awards is to carefully consider a combination of actual measurable impact, demonstrated innovation, and the project’s ability to inspire others to imitate it – and The LEAD Project completed by Energy Futures Lab and Canada West Foundation is a terrific example”.

– Gavin Pitchford, CEO, Delta Management Group

The LEAD project brought together a broad group of key stakeholders – oil and gas companies, new energy entrepreneurs, regulators, landowners, the Alberta government, environmental companies and legal experts – to find solutions. The project culminated in an April 2021 report that urged the province to signal that solving regulatory roadblocks to developing inactive oil and gas well sites is a priority, apply existing legislation to new circumstances where the interpretation permits and identify gaps and crate processes to fix those gaps. The report put forward a short, impactful bill for the Alberta government to consider.

The problem of abandoned wells remains pressing for policymakers and worrying for landowners; there are currently 95,000 inactive wells in Alberta, including more than 7,700 that are “orphaned.” They are considered a major financial and environmental liability. But, as our report suggests, with an appropriate regulatory framework, they may also present an opportunity to be repurposed for other, clean energy uses such as geothermal, micro-solar, hydrogen, recovery of lithium or other minerals, or carbon capture and storage. This would help create jobs, diversify the energy sector, create new economic opportunities for landowners and ease taxpayer burden around site liability.

Both CWF and EFL are committed to working toward evidence-based, practical solutions to help Canada achieve its goals for a low carbon future. We are delighted that this work has received national recognition for its pursuit of a cleaner energy future as we believe it proposes a sustainable path forward for an urgent environmental concern in Alberta.

You can read the LEAD report online here.

Marla Orenstein, Director, Natural Resources Centre, Canada West Foundation and Juli Rohl, Lead Animator, Energy Futures Lab