The Accelerated Site Closure Program was launched by the province in June 2020, with the aim of helping get those in the oil and gas sector back into the field during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. With $400 million in funding provided by the federal government, it came with a deadline of March 15th, 2023. Any of the money not spent by the end of the program is to be remitted back to the federal government.
Since the program launched, more than $388 million has now been spent through over 900 oil and gas service companies, creating the equivalent of over 1,700 full-time jobs. The work has also helped with the abandonment of more than 8,400 wells and more than 13,000 site remediation and reclamation activities.
“Things are progressing really well, and I think we’re on track to spend all of, or most of, that $400 million funding envelope,” explained Eric Warren. He is the Executive Director of Strategic Planning and Initiatives with the provincial Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources.
Warren did note, though, that there were some challenges when they first launched the program.
“We wanted to keep it focused on Saskatchewan companies and Saskatchewan workers,” Warren said. “Initially as this funding started to rollout there were definitely some challenges in terms of finding the capacity to deliver the services needed to spend the full $400 million over the life of the program, but I think what we’ve seen as the program has progressed is a building of capacity in the Saskatchewan-based service sector itself.”
With the amount of work done through the program, the success is being heralded thanks to a one-team approach. Warren said the Saskatchewan Research Council was responsible for the day-to-day operations, as the industry was able to keep in touch with them easily. SaskBuilds helped to bring on Saskatchewan-based service companies, while the Saskatchewan First Nations Natural Resource Center of Excellence helped to drive Indigenous participation with $30 million going directly to complete site closure work on reserve land across the province.
“We’ve also created an incentive for the use of Indigenous service companies, and there we’ve seen more than $50 million spent,” Warren added, noting the collaboration has been a key to the success of the program.
Going forward after the end of the Accelerated Site Closure Program, new rules for the Financial Security and Site Closure regulations took effect on January 1st of this year. These regulations are expected to see oil and gas producers addressing inactive oil and well sites, and it is hoped for elevated site closure activity after the ASCP is over.