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PetroLMI report highlights workforce impacts from Alberta well closure activities

September 8, 2021

Today the PetroLMI Division of Energy Safety Canada (PetroLMI) released its latest report, Workforce Impacts from Alberta Well Closures: Creating Stability Through Cyclicality, which provides insights into the workforce opportunities and challenges presented by the Alberta Site Rehabilitation Program (SRP) and other financial incentive programs.

The report is the first of its kind to provide an overview of the well closure activities related to inactive and orphaned wells, the key well servicing and environmental occupations involved, and the labour and demand gaps. The report also explores the topics of Indigenous participation and repurposing dormant infrastructure to develop renewable energies, as well as recommendations from early lessons learned from the implementation of these programs.

“Developing oil and natural gas resources involves a series of activities and doesn’t simply end once the resources are produced. An important part of the process is decommissioning the well and bringing the surrounding land back to its original state,” says Carol Howes, Vice President of Communications and PetroLMI, Energy Safety Canada. “This report dives into these closure and environmental activities, and as importantly, looks at the kind of skilled workforce required to get the work done.”

There are approximately 105,000 inactive and orphan wells across Alberta, and increased closure activity due to the SRP and other financial incentives has helped to create or sustain thousands of jobs across the province, while at the same time contributing to responsible resource development. Improved commodity prices and increased activity, as well as the financial incentive programs seem to be stabilizing employment. The unemployment rate in the oil and gas services sub-sector decreased from 22.5 per cent in July 2020 to 4.1 per cent in July 2021. 

Oil and gas services companies are reporting a shortage of new and experienced workers and are finding it difficult to attract workers back to the industry after a six-year economic downturn. Many of the same oil and gas services companies conduct well closure activities as well as activities supporting exploration and production.

“In a recent survey, over 50 per cent of our members reported difficulty in finding qualified and experienced workers,” says Elizabeth Aquin, Senior Vice President, Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC). “With fewer people applying and expectations of activity this fall and winter, project delays and increased costs for labour may result. The career opportunities are as diverse as the services our members provide and growing in this innovative sector. PSAC is looking at a variety of ways to support members in attracting the workforce they need.”

To that end, PetroLMI is also hosting NextWork, a one-day career fair on September 28, 2021, to bring job seekers and employers together. More information is available at NextWork.

The report Workforce Impacts from Alberta Well Closures: Creating Stability Through Cyclicality was funded by the Province of Alberta working in partnership with the Government of Canada to provide employment support programs and services.

The Petroleum Labour Market Information (PetroLMI) Division of Energy Safety Canada is a leading resource for labour market information and trends in Canada's energy industry. PetroLMI specializes in providing oil and gas labour market data and insights, as well as resources for workforce and career planning.