One way to get ex-oil workers on the job again: cleaning up old wells

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says plenty of jobs could be created by redeploying laid-off oil and gas workers to clean up defunct wells. File /GETTY IMAGES

One productive way to get laid off oil-and-gas workers on the job again: Get them cleaning up abandoned wells.

That’s what Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is proposing, a scheme that would stimulate employment in the hard-hit sector by accelerating cleanup of wells no longer capable of production.

Such a proposal, if undertaken, would speed up decommissioning and reclamation of 1,000 non-producing wells over the next two years.

Just how many workers would Wall’s plan require? How about 1,200.

“Saskatchewan is home to a high concentration of energy service sector companies and their employees, many of whom are now out of work,” Wall said Monday at the provincial legislature.

“These are the professionals who are best suited to well cleanup,” Wall said.

MORE: When the oil stops, 16×9 takes a closer look at oil wells in Canada

Federal funding

Work would include safe removal and disposal of old equipment, remediation of any spills and revegetation of the land.

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The proposal calls for $156 million in federal funding. Wall says he has spoken with and written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the idea.

In Alberta, where inactive wells are numerous, such a proposal would likely be well received by the thousands of workers who’ve been laid off in over the past year.

Job losses in the province’s once vaunted energy sector — which has withstood a deep dive in crude prices dating back to late 2014 — have been the steepest in the country.

The province lost another 10,000 positions across all sectors last month, Statscan said last week.

MORE: Map — Alberta littered with inactive oil and gas wells

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— With files from The Canadian Press 


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