REGINA -- The province has launched a new program to handle the abandonment and reclamation of abandoned oil and gas wells in Saskatchewan.

The Accelerated Site Closure Program (ASCP) will have $400 million available over two years through Ottawa’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. The Ministry of Energy and Resources will oversee the program through a partnership with the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC).

The province says the program is prioritizing Saskatchewan-based companies to support 2,100 full-time jobs. The government plans to reclaim around 8,000 inactive wells through the program.

“We have worked hard to develop a common sense, administratively simple program that creates much-needed jobs in the struggling oil and gas sector,” Energy and Resources Minister Bronwyn Eyre said in a news release. “The ASCP will accelerate the retirement of wells and facilities, which have reached the end of their life cycle, and complete a substantial amount of environmentally important work in a short period of time.  For that, we would like to acknowledge the support of the federal government.”

The new program will roll out in several phases. The first phase will give up to $100 million in funding to Saskatchewan companies contracted for the work.

Eligible operators can use the Integrated Resource Information System (IRIS) to nominate inactive facilities. The operators will be given a portion of planned expenditures, based on shares of total provincial liabilities for inactive wells. Then, the SRC will find services from eligible companies to perform the abandonment and reclamation work.