Written by Ashley White, Chelsea Tolppanen, Keely Cameron and Shawn Munro
The Alberta Energy Regulator introduced the proposed Manual XXX: Contamination Management on July 7, 2021. This manual is intended to assist companies in understanding the requirements and expectations under the Remediation Regulation for remediating contamination. Contamination management requires a company to take measures to ensure that contamination does not cause or create further adverse effects. Contamination management includes developing a strategy to remediate contamination, which means reducing, removing, or destroying substances in soil, water, or groundwater through the application of physical, chemical, or biological processes.
This guidance comes at a time, where in an effort to ensure companies are addressing their environmental obligations, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has advised that starting in 2022 they will set industry-wide mandatory closure spend targets as well as individual annual mandatory spend targets for oil and gas licensees associated with inactive infrastructure. These spend targets will require oil and gas companies to spend a minimum amount on closure. Funds spent on active sites are not included.
One contamination management strategy that may benefit from these changes, is the use of in-situ technologies such as bioremediation (uses bacteria to degrade hydrocarbons) and phytoremediation (uses plants to remediate). In-situ technology refers to techniques that remediate material in place. Unlike traditional dig and dump methods, in-situ remediation takes longer to remediate a site (two to five years), however they are often a fraction of the cost associated with ex-situ methods. As a result of the movement towards focusing on spend amounts as opposed to liability management ratings, there is increased benefits associated with utilizing a lower cost approach which can result in more sites being remediated.
If considering utilization of in-situ techniques, it is important to understand whether any additional regulatory approvals or requirements apply. For example, in certain circumstances where biopile and biocells are used, a permit may be required under the AER's Directive 058: Oilfield Waste Management Requirements for the Upstream Petroleum Industry.
The Bennett Jones Energy and Energy Regulatory groups have experience helping companies through the full regulatory life cycle and can assist in preparing a remediation plan and obtaining any necessary approvals.