Industry works to minimize land disturbanceThe natural gas industry is expected to be a good steward of the land and is responsible for implementing good land management practices in order to minimize impacts. Managing the impacts of natural gas development begins at project siting and design and continues throughout construction, operations and eventually through to decommissioning and site reclamation. This process is typically guided by completing land-use studies prior to development to determine the best overall approach to managing impacts of development on sensitive ecosystems which, for example, could include active nesting sites for birds.
Technology reduces the environmental footprintRecent technological advances in horizontal drilling and the use of multi-well drilling pads have greatly reduced the amount of land disturbed in natural gas drilling operations. For example, a 20-well horizontal drilling pad disturbs about five per cent of the land of equal number of vertical drilling pads. And by using common roads to access well sites, additional disturbances on the land are reduced.
Understanding surface and mineral rights
Most land in western Canada has two land titles – surface rights and mineral or subsurface rights. Mineral or subsurface rights are usually owned by the government. As a property owner, you own the surface rights.
The government may award a time-limited lease for the mineral rights to a company who wants to develop natural gas or oil. Mineral leases are time-limited and are valid from three to ten years. While the government grants mineral rights to a company to explore for and produce oil and natural gas, access to mineral rights does not include access to the surface land. Surface access is granted by the landowner.
Who awards mineral rights?
- In B.C., mineral rights are awarded by the Ministry of Natural Gas Development. The ministry provides notification of mineral rights awards to landowners.
- In Alberta, the Ministry of Energy awards rights and landowners are notified via the Alberta Mineral Information system (AMI).
Securing access to a landowner's property
Once a company has secured the mineral rights they will negotiate a surface lease with the landowner. The agreement will:
- Outline the proposed exploration and development activities
- Detail the construction and maintenance of any above ground structures
- Provide fair compensation for surface access to well sites and related infrastructure
- Include a survey plan showing access, dimensions of the lease area and location of the well and infrastructure proposed