When energy companies use or produce substances at a site or facility, there’s always a chance those substances will spill or leak. That’s a problem, especially if those substances end up in soil, surface water, or groundwater.
If a spill occurs, companies must manage and remove contamination—perform “remediation”—immediately.
Before the AER was created, contamination was allowed to remain in place until an energy site or facility was decommissioned. Today, companies aren’t allowed to wait; an immediate response reduces the likelihood of any contamination migrating to other areas over time.
What We Expect From Companies
Simply stated, we expect companies to correct the situation. Companies are responsible for managing and cleaning up any contamination from their licensed activities or from approved facilities. And they should have a plan to address potential contamination before it happens.
If a spill or release does occur, it must be reported to us immediately. Read our Release Reporting Requirements brochure for more information about our reporting requirements.
To adequately manage site contamination, a company must
- contain and control the source of contamination,
- indicate the width and depth of the release,
- ensure the ecosystem is not adversely impacted during remediation, and
- clean up the contamination in a timely manner.
We will work with the company to ensure that the contamination is appropriately managed and environmental impacts are minimized. We will also take enforcement action if a company fails to remediate the site or facility.
Companies have the option of applying for a remediation certificate after managing contamination on their sites. This certificate provides assurance to site owners, managers, and stakeholders that the contaminated area has been remediated to our satisfaction.
Unlike reclamation certificates, a remediation certificate is not required after a site is remediated.
When an energy project is no longer needed for production, the infrastructure must be properly suspended and abandoned before the site can be remediated and reclaimed. Under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, companies are legally obligated to return the land to what it looked like, and how it was used, before development (or similarly). Once a site is reclaimed, a company can apply for a reclamation certificate so that it can formally close the project.
Remediation Techniques and Tools
The way a company manages contamination and remediates an area will depend on the situation. Techniques used to remediate contaminated material can be performed on site (in situ) or off site (ex situ).
In situ remediation techniques involve managing or treating the contaminated material in place. These techniques minimize the amount of soil sent to landfills. Contaminated material treated in situ is not considered oilfield waste.
Ex situ remediation techniques involve excavating or removing the material for treatment or disposal. Contaminated material that is treated or disposed of ex situ is considered oilfield waste. It must be disposed of in accordance with Directive 058: Oilfield Waste Management Requirements for the Upstream Petroleum Industry.
See our Contamination Management Tools and Resources page for remediation guides, forms, and other information.
- Fact sheet: Closure – Abandonment, Reclamation, and Remediation
- Fact sheet: Reclamation and Remediation
- Resource story: When Everyone Wins
For questions about remediation, please contact our Customer Contact Centre.