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The AER continues to identify areas of temporary relief to support industry’s ability to comply with the public health orders currently in effect.

Because the public health orders limit physical interactions, industry, like all Albertans, have been challenged to conduct day to day activities and still comply with the orders that are in place to protect public health.

Bulletin 2020-10: Relief for Industry During COVID-19 Pandemic Response explains how two ministerial orders apply to parties we regulate. Section 6 of Alberta Energy ministerial order 219/2020 modifies the operation of the acts, to the extent it’s necessary, to enable reasonable compliance with the COVID-19 orders issued under the Public Health Act, including guidelines issued by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

It is under this authority that we have identified additional temporary relief that allows industry to continue with critical work while protecting the health and safety of industry workers and all Albertans.

We established two guiding principles to evaluate requests. First, there must be a demonstration that the public health orders pose a challenge in completing the monitoring activity. Second, any deferral of monitoring must have a low risk of potential short- and long-term impacts. We have only provided temporary measures that are supported by technical experts and do not impact the AER’s ability to fulfil its mandate. The AER has tens of thousands of requirements written into legislation and individual project approval documents. In general terms, here are examples of some of the requirements that remain in place and those that have changed.

The list of items deferred is limited and complies with those guiding principles. They have all been shared within the updates below; some required formal decisions. These suspensions and modifications will apply for so long as ministerial orders 17/2020 and 219/2020 and the public health orders are in effect, or otherwise directed by the AER.

Industry must continue to report as directed in compliance and enforcement orders and fulfill all requirements where temporary relief has not been provided. They must also continue to report emergencies, including incidents, notifications, contraventions, and releases that have or may have the potential to impact the environment or public safety to the Energy and Environmental Emergency 24-Hour Response Line at 1-800-222-6514. In addition, volumetric reporting, and reporting related to very high and extreme consequence dams is still required.

During the period of temporary suspensions, parties must continue to record and retain complete documentation relating to any reporting and make it available upon request.

If you have questions not answered here, please contact Industry.Relief@aer.ca.


What's New

Industry relief updates: May 20 @ 1:00 pm

Oil sands mining
Operators that conduct twice annual surveys to determine the volumes of fluid tailings and treated fluid tailings in their storage facilities are now required to perform only one of those surveys in 2020. All other operators that normally conduct one survey a year who are unable to conduct these surveys must submit for the AER’s approval proposed variances to their measurement plans for the 2020 annual surveys. Survey findings must be reported as outlined in Directive 085 Fluid Tailings Management for Oil Sands Mining Projects.

With respect to the requirement for measurement under Section 20 of the Oil Sands Conservation Rules, except for royalty or custody transfer measurements:

  • An operator can modify or temporarily suspend field activities for S-23 production accounting manual regulated meters and instrumentation. Operators must provide a summary of any modification or suspension to the AER.
  • An operator can modify or temporarily suspend sampling required by the S-23 production accounting manual. Sampling may require additional workers on site and in the lab. Operators must provide a summary of any modification or suspension to the AER. Operators must have adequate sampling in place to ensure accurate volumetric reporting in PETRINEX

Conventional oil and gas
Requirements under Directive 017: Measurement Requirements for Oil and Gas Operations are temporarily suspended for licensees to conduct any liquids-to-gas ratio testing or oil and gas sampling where third-party contractors are required on site to complete the work. Any testing that may be conducted, or samples that may be collected and sent to lab without the assistance of third-party contractors must continue.

The requirement for the five-year integrity testing for aboveground storage tanks, as outlined in Appendix 2.1.2 of Directive 055: Storage Requirements for the Upstream Petroleum Industry, is temporarily suspended. Monthly visual inspections of tanks and the surface of the diked area for evidence of problems, damage, or leakage must continue as required by section 5.3.2.2 of Directive 055.

Pipeline deactivation reminder
A reminder that the deactivation of pipelines must be done with consideration for the future use of the pipeline. Internal and external corrosion mitigation and monitoring must continue on deactivated pipelines that are susceptible to corrosion. Deactivated pipelines should be purged and left in a safe condition that does not promote corrosion or represent a threat to the environment. Non-metallic pipelines should be purged so they are left in a safe condition. After 12 months of deactivation, the pipeline is required to be returned to service, discontinued, or abandoned.

Stack testing
The AER understands that there may be limitations in the ability of approval holders to complete all required manual stack testing (stack surveys), relative accuracy test audit activities, and cylinder gas audit activities as described in EPEA approvals due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Approval holders may apply to the AER to modify the frequency and timing of these activities if they are concerned with their ability to meet the requirements due to the pandemic.

Temporary measures for conventional oil and gas operations

The following monitoring and associated activities related to approvals for conventional oil and gas operations issued under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) , the Water Act, and the Public Lands Act are now temporarily suspended as per Decision 20200520B:

  • Volatile organic compounds and reduced sulphur compound monitoring, including fugitive emissions surveys carried out by third-party contractors.
  • Surface water quality testing and analysis with the exception of surface water releases to the environment.
  • Fugitive emissions leak detection and repair (LDAR) programs carried out by third-party contractors. Methane monitoring requirements must still be met.
  • Lab testing of water released – except for domestic wastewater releases. Field measurements for pH, chlorides, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen where applicable must be used if not performing lab analysis. Visual inspections for oil and grease and estimated discharge volumes must continue.
  • All soil monitoring and groundwater monitoring under EPEA approvals with the exception of any monitoring necessary to protect human health and ecological receptors. This monitoring must resume no later than September 30, 2020, with at least one monitoring event taking place in 2020. Oil and gas facilities typically have established baseline conditions and contamination spreads slowly and reducing monitoring to one event per year is considered low risk. Monitoring must continue where contamination is present and close to sensitive sites, such as a water well.  
  • All groundwater sampling under Water Act licences and approvals. Oil and gas facilities typically have established baseline conditions. Missing one sampling event is considered low risk.  
  • Quality Assurance Plan (QAP) Audits and verifications, including third-party audits, under the Continuous Emission Monitoring System (CEMS) Code. Approval holders are still required to maintain CEMS monitoring and report exceedances and meet federal multi-sector air pollutants regulation measurement requirements.
  • Manned gate access control when alternate access control is in place.

The following monitoring and associated activities related to approvals for in situ oil sands operations issued under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA) , the Water Act, and the Public Lands Act are now temporarily suspended as per Decision 20200520A:

  • Audits and verifications, including third-party audits, under the Continuous Emission Monitoring System (CEMS) Code. Approval holders are still required to maintain CEMS monitoring and report exceedances and meet federal multi-sector air pollutants regulation measurement requirements.
  • Fugitive emissions leak detection and repair (LDAR) programs carried out by third-party contractors. Methane monitoring requirements for in situ operations must still be met.
  • Off-lease firebreak monitoring. Off-lease firebreaks were created by operators during the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire. Since that time, the AER has requested that operators monitor the firebreaks for issues, such as weeds and the area not growing back properly, in conjunction with their EPEA approval monitoring requirements.
  • Soil monitoring requirements for operators required to perform soil monitoring activities in 2020 by their EPEA approvals.
  • Surface water quality testing and analysis with the exception of surface water releases to the environment.
  • Wildlife monitoring programs conducted internal or external of lease boundaries, including research programs, population estimates, and presence studies. Operational mitigation and deterrent programs already in place are to remain in place to protect wildlife and both migratory and non-migratory birds at oil sands operations.
  • Wildlife monitoring programs using cameras and acoustic recording devices or other techniques to remotely capture animal presence. These monitoring programs are long-term and the loss of one season of data is considered low risk to the program. All wildlife deterrents and mitigations remain in place.
  • All research requirements under EPEA approvals. Research under EPEA approvals are long-term projects and missing a portion of a year is expected to have a minimal impact to the project.
  • All reclamation monitoring programs. The mitigation and repair of potential impacts, such as weed infestations and soil erosion, must continue. 
  • All groundwater monitoring under EPEA approvals with the exception of any monitoring necessary to protect human health and ecological receptors. This monitoring must resume no later than September 30, 2020, with at least one monitoring event taking place in 2020. In situ facilities typically have established baseline conditions and contamination spreads slowly. Reducing monitoring to once in 2020 is considered low risk. Monitoring must continue where contamination is present and close to sensitive sites, such as a water well.  
  • All groundwater sampling under Water Act licences and approvals. In situ operators typically sample water source wells on an annual basis and have established baseline conditions. Missing one sampling event is considered low risk.
  • Manned gate access control when alternate access control is in place.
  • Monitoring of roadway watercourse crossings.
  • Groundwater sampling and monitoring of well installations in 2020 under the Alberta Environment and Parks directive Assessment of Thermally-Mobilized Constituents in Groundwater for Thermal In Situ Operations. Installation of heat source wells and baseline sampling have occurred under the directive and quarterly sampling has started. Missing the 2020 sampling events and well installations is considered low risk, provided that it resumes in 2021. 
  • Wetland monitoring. Wetland monitoring takes place throughout the life of an in situ project and relies partly on long-term trends. Missing monitoring for a portion of a year is considered low risk.
  • Lab testing of water released – except for domestic wastewater releases. Field measurements for pH and chlorides must be used if not performing lab analysis. Visual inspections for oil and grease and estimated discharge volumes must continue.

Industry relief update – May 1, 2020 @ 9:30 am

In our ongoing effort to provide relief and further clarity to industry, the AER considers the following requirements suspended:

  • Requirements to conduct spring 2020 groundwater or soil monitoring events and analysis for all oilfield waste management facilities (including landfills), as per oilfield waste management facility approvals and section 2 of appendix 4.4 of Directive 058: Oilfield Waste Management Requirements for the Upstream Oil and Gas Industryand section 8.150(3) of the Oil and Gas Conservation Rules.
  • The requirement for laboratory analysis of leachate collection system sampling and leak detection system sampling for oilfield waste management facilities according to approval conditions and section 5.9 of the Standards for Landfill in Alberta as enacted under Directive 058: Oilfield Waste Management Requirements for the Upstream Petroleum Industry.
  • The requirement for annual testing as specified in section 2.3.1 of Interim Directive 2003-01 after a non-serious surface casing vent flow has been reported is deferred for the 2020 calendar year unless specified otherwise by the AER. Licensees are required to comply with all other requirements in sections 2 and 3 of the interim directive. Licensees are expected to practise due diligence to establish processes that help confirm public safety, environmental protection, and responsible energy development.
  • Requirements to hold emergency response exercises and submit updates to emergency response plans, as per Directive 071: Emergency Preparedness and Response Requirements for the Petroleum Industryand section 8.006 of the Oil and Gas Conservation Rules.Companies must continue to comply with other Directive 071 requirements to ensure required information is available in the event of an emergency.

Amendment to Approval Conditions - April 29, 2020

The AER is working directly with approval holders to understand their unique challenges and to support compliance with the public health orders. We will post decisions on approval-specific modifications to monitoring requirements to our website, as they are determined.

Mines and Minerals Act (Part 8) update - April 16, 2020 @ 6:45 am

Limited industry capacity may affect their ability to complete exploration programs by the expiry date set forth in an exploration approval. Industry can request term extensions for approved geophysical exploration programs by following requirements under exploration directive ED2006-08: Extension to an Exploration Approval. To request an extension, a written request must be sent to the AER at exploration@aer.ca. Program extensions will be granted on a case by case basis.

Levy Updates- April 14, 2020 @ 9:30 am

2020/2021 Orphan Fund Levy
Licensees remain responsible to pay any remaining balances for the 2019/2020 orphan levy. The timing for collection of the 2020/2021 orphan fund levy is under review. An update is expected in June.

The Government of Alberta’s loan to the Orphan Well Association is not being applied to the orphan fund levy.

2020 Industry Levy
In March 2020, the Government of Alberta announced that it will provide $113 million in relief to industry by covering six months of the 2020 AER industry levy.

The AER is working with the Government of Alberta to determine implications to the industry levy for the remainder of the fiscal year and will provide updates when more details are available. Paid by industry, the industry levy funds AER operations and is separate from the orphan fund levy.

In response to inquiries from industry, we will be providing clarity on necessary modifications to AER requirements to enable industry’s reasonable compliance with the applicable Public Health Act orders. In this regard, the AER considers the following requirements suspended:

First communicated in Bulletin 2020-10

Alberta Energy Ministerial Order 219/2020 suspends the following:
  • All of the following requirements to report information pursuant to provisions in the Coal Conservation Rules and approvals:
    • Annual reporting under section 65(2)(a) and (b)
    • Exploration reporting under section 40
    • All plans specified within approval conditions under the Coal Conservation Act except conditions related to geotechnical reporting
  • The following requirements to report information pursuant to provisions in the Oil and Gas Conservation Rules, directives, approvals, licences:
  • The following requirements under Directive 013: Suspension Requirements for Wells and section 3.020 of the Oil and Gas Conservation Rules:
    • Inactive wells not part of the Inactive Well Compliance Program
      • initial suspension requirements in Directive 013 for all wells considered low and medium risk type 6
      • on-going inspection requirements in Directive 013 for all wells considered low and medium risk
    • Inactive wells in the Inactive Well Compliance Program
      • compliance deadline for the final year of the program
  • All of the following requirements to report information pursuant to provisions in the Oil Sands Conservation Rules and approvals for both oil sands mining and in situ:
    • Annual mine plans under section 30
    • Report of mining operations under section 31
    • Report of operations under section 58
    • Annual geotechnical report under section 32
    • All plans specified within approval conditions under the Oil Sands Conservation Act except conditions related to geotechnical reporting requirements.

As it relates to Alberta Energy Regulator requirements, with some exceptions, Alberta Environment and Parks’ Ministerial Order suspends the following:

  • All requirements to report information pursuant to provisions in approvals or registrations authorized under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.
  • All requirements to report information pursuant to provisions in licences or approvals authorized under the Water Act.
  • All requirements to report as required under a formal disposition under the Public Lands Act.

While these reporting requirements have been suspended, the following exceptions apply (meaning the following reports must still be submitted).

Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act
  • Bird protection plans for oil sands sector
  • Annual Mine Financial Security Program submissions for oil sands and coal sectors
  • Research program for Base Mine Lake and Miwasin Lake
Water Act
  • Final reclamation summary reports for all sectors
  • Dam safety submissions for all high-, very-high-, and extreme-consequence dams.
  • Baseline studies at the McClelland Lake Wetland Complex
Public Lands Act
  • Annual aggregate management plan update for oil sands and coal sectors
  • Annual disclosure of area cleared for oil sands and coal sectors