As defined by the Orphan Well Association (OWA), an orphan is “a well, pipeline, facility or associated site that does not have a legally responsible and/or financially viable party to deal with its decommissioning and reclamation responsibilities”.¹ These sites can contaminate land, water, and life, with remediation efforts that could last up to a decade or longer. As the oil and gas industry continues to endure rocky times, the orphanage steadily grows. As of May 1, 2021, there are over 4,943 orphan sites for reclamation, 2,689 orphan sites for decommissioning, and 3,183 orphan pipelines for decommissioning.²

Unlike the OWA, OWAA extends the definition of orphan wells to include the 97,000 inactive and 71,000 abandoned wells in Alberta that are in need of reclamation.³ Though these well sites are still under the responsibility of their company caretaker, we have included these wells so that they might find the repair and care that they deserve. With no time limits on how long a well can sit dormant, there seems to be no caretaking plan for these wells, though they may be hazardous.

Interested in becoming a caretaker? To date, OWAA has found symbolic caretakers for over 70 orphan wells in so-called Alberta. Our Orphan Well Adoption Days are currently on hold due to the global pandemic and our decreased operating capacity. Please check back for upcoming opportunities to meet with one of our OWAA representatives. In the meantime, view the orphan well portraits below and visit our Resources and Information section. Click on any image for a larger view. A correspondence section sharing letters between wells and caretakers is coming soon…

1. “Orphan Well Association Frequently Asked Questions.” Orphan Well Association, 2021, www.orphanwell.ca/FAQ

2. Orphan Inventory.” Orphan Well Association, 2021, www.orphanwell.ca/about/orphan-inventory

3. “Oil and Gas Liabilities Management.” Alberta, Government of Alberta, Published in 2021, www.alberta.ca/oil-and-gas-liabilities-management.aspx