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Oil and Gas Sites Reclamation Requirements

OneStop, our automated review technology, uses a series of assessment rules to review reclamation certificate applications. Low-risk applications move through the system quickly, while high-risk applications are forwarded to our staff for a more detailed review.

How OneStop Reviews Applications

Through OneStop, our review of reclamation certificate applications includes two levels of review:

  • standard (baseline) review: All reclamation certificate applications are reviewed by OneStop for completeness. This automated review is sufficient for most low-risk activities. If any conditions detailed below are true or if uncertainty is identified, the application will be flagged for additional review.
  • additional (manual) review: The reclamation certificate application introduces uncertainty or higher risks, and must be given a closer look. Our staff must review these applications before making a decision.

Learn more about these levels of review and how we make decisions based on risk.

Application Completeness

OneStop’s standard review ensures that all necessary components of the application are included. If information is missing, the application will be refused and sent back to the company.

Reasons for Additional Review

If any of the following conditions are true, the application will be sent for additional review by our staff.

We are aware of or the application mentions unresolved landowner complaints.

A landowner complaint is any notification to us that a landowner believes that an operation, site, or facility under our jurisdiction is causing, has caused, or may cause an adverse impact to public safety, the environment, or personal property.

A complaint can be made at any time. Operators must identify in the reclamation certificate application if there are unresolved landowner complaints associated with reclamation of the site.

At least one statement of concern has been registered against the application.

Under the Responsible Energy Development Act, a statement of concern (SOC) is a written submission that presents specific concerns about an energy resource development application. An SOC may be submitted by any person who believes that they may be directly and adversely affected by an application.

The application involves partial reclamation because of an overlapping activity, and amendments to the underlying Public Lands Act dispositions are required, and the approved amendments are not included in the application.

Multiple operators may share existing infrastructure (e.g., an oilfield road that connects multiple assets). Operators can transfer the requirement to receive a reclamation certificate on portions of land where a second “specified land” activity is being carried out. For example, when a portion of an access road is being used by another operator, the applicant may transfer the responsibility to get a reclamation certificate for that portion of road to the other operator.

Operators requesting a reclamation certificate must ensure that they have not created a “dead ending” situation, such as an asset (e.g., a well) with no legal access or a road leading to nowhere.

Amendments and assignments of a disposition are conducted using a separate process from reclamation certification. They are conducted under the Public Lands Act.

Access road – A partial reclamation certificate is used when a portion of the access road is still in use and clearly goes to another site.
After receiving a partial reclamation certificate, the operator can transfer reclamation of the remainder of the road (LOC) to another operator by assignment. The LOC must then be amended to remove the certified portion.

The operator may want to keep the remainder of the access road registered in their name to access another of their own well sites; in that case, they must amend the road to remove the certified portion.

Well site – A partial reclamation certificate is used for a well site (MSL) when a road overlaps the well but is not under its own disposition (LOC).

Operators are required to amend disposition documentation before submitting their reclamation application.

The application includes an application for exemption from certification due to an overlapping activity that has not already been approved.

Multiple operators may share existing infrastructure (e.g., an oilfield road that connects multiple assets). Operators, with our approval, do not have to receive a reclamation certificate for land where other “specified land” activity is taking place.

For example, when a portion of an access road is being used by another operator, the operator may apply for an exemption due to the presence of an overlapping activity. This exemption must be included with their application for a reclamation certificate.

The application mentions third-party damage to the site but does not include written acceptances from the landowner asserting that the damage does not require further mitigation.

Upstream oil and gas reclamation criteria in CZ–2010 Reclamation Criteria identify landscape, soil, and vegetation reclamation requirements. However, actions of a third party beyond the reasonable control of the operator can adversely impact the operator’s ability to meet these reclamation criteria. A third party includes someone other than the operator or their contractors. A third party may not be known to the operator.
Examples of third-party action can include

  • seismic line construction,
  • unauthorized all-terrain vehicle rutting,
  • livestock grazing, and
  • hay or bale storage.

If the damage does not create an environmental concern requiring mitigation, the operator may get written acceptance from us (for Crown land), or the landowner (for private land), acknowledging the third-party impact to the site and accepting the land as is. The written acceptance must be included with their application for a reclamation certificate.

The application includes variances from the standard reclamation criteria, but the variance is not already approved (i.e., the variance is being applied for at the same time as the reclamation certificate).

Upstream oil and gas reclamation criteria in CZ–2010 Reclamation Criteria allow professionals to use their judgement to determine when reclamation is successful even though, in some cases, individual aspects of the reclamation criteria may not have been met. This most commonly occurs when correcting the deficiencies would result in further disturbance of the site, jeopardizing successful reclamation. Examples of failures to meet reclamation criteria that might be noted in a detailed site assessment include

  • insufficient soil quantity or quality,
  • small increase in weeds on a forested site, or
  • variation of the original landscape outside of the allowed tolerances within the criteria (e.g., removal of a slope or rise).

In these situations, before an operator submits their application for a reclamation certificate, they may apply for a variance for the specific criteria they are not able to meet.

Use of aerial assessments for nonremote sites would also require variance approval, but an approved variance is not required for aerial assessments conducted on remote sites.

Note: Criteria for all aerial assessments, regardless of land use, are listed in the following Alberta Environment and Parks document: Reclamation Criteria for Well Sites and Associated Facilities for Peatlands and Coal and Oil Sands Exploration Reclamation Requirements.

The application includes variances from standard remediation endpoints that were not previously approved (i.e., the variance is being applied for at the same time as the reclamation certificate).

As part of upstream oil and gas reclamation certification, contaminated sites must be remediated (i.e., decontaminated). Operators must meet the Government of Alberta’s Tier 1 or Tier 2 Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guidelines or other applicable guidelines (e.g., Subsoil Salinity Tool) to achieve Alberta’s environmental protection objectives.
If an operator cannot meet the soil and groundwater guidelines before they submit their application for a reclamation certificate, they can apply for a variance for the specific criteria they are not able to meet. A variance allows changes to the site-assessment criteria.

Accredited individuals may use their professional judgement to determine whether or not a site has been successfully remediated, even if there are individual failures or anomalies identified through a phase 2 environmental site assessment. In these situations, the operator may apply for a variance if, in their professional opinion, the amount and types of exceedance do not pose any threat to the environment or to public health and safety.

The application indicates that the site was remediated using Tier 2 or other site-specific guidelines.

The Government of Alberta’s Tier 2  Soil and Groundwater Remediation Guidelines require accredited individuals to determine site-specific remediation endpoints based on the site’s environmental conditions (such as how the contaminants move through the soil or groundwater to the receptor and what particular receptors are associated with the particular location). The resulting remediation endpoints are site and contaminant specific.

Audit

We conduct audits after a reclamation certificate has been issued. Regardless of what level of review the application was subject to, once a reclamation certificate is granted, the application and certificate are subject to audit.

The above-mentioned criteria are not exhaustive. There are other ways a certificate can be flagged for audit. But if the baseline review notices any of these conditions, the certificate, once issued, will be automatically placed in the audit queue.

We may refuse reclamation certificate applications due to administrative incompleteness or technical deficiencies (e.g., vegetation failure, soil failure). Reclamation certificates may also be cancelled following verified landowner complaints or failed audits.