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Abandoned Gas and Oil Wells

gas well

Companies and landowners in Ontario have drilled thousands of wells to extract oil and gas deep undergroundThese wells are deactivated for many reasons, from being no longer economically viable to being neglected. When a well is no longer needed for oil and gas development, it must be permanently sealed and taken out of service. This process is known as abandonment. Unfortunately, not all abandoned wells are properly decommissioned, and those plugged in the past can still leak.  

An orphaned well no longer has a legal owner responsible for it Orphan wells can be in any state: inactive, suspended, abandoned, or active (producing). An inactive well has not been operational (Has not produced gas or oil) for 6 to 12 months, depending on how it is classified. A suspended well has been deemed inactive but is being monitored and maintained to ensure public & environmental safety.  

Gas and oil wells could have been constructed almost anywhere but are usually in farm fields or forests. The first step in determining if there is a gas or oil well on your property (abandoned or otherwise) is to search for it on maps or in other resources available on-line or elsewhere. Speaking with long-standing neighbours or well drillers in the area may also shed light on where these wells are (local knowledge).  Finally, a systematic approach of walking the land may produce evidence of an abandoned well.  


A gas or oil well is more likely to exist: 

  • On-farm properties include multiple farmsteads, abandoned land or structures and uncultivated sites. 
  • Or properties in a former or current oil/gas-producing area
  • Farm areas with stunted vegetation, compacted trails/sites, oil residue, abandoned drilling pads, etc


Consider the following when trying to locate a well: 

  • Search for records of oil, gas and water well locations (MNR for Gas & Oil wells). 
  • Search for old irrigation permits, building permits, site surveys and plans. 
  • Look at abandoned fields, old farmsteads, former livestock feeding sites and fence lines. 
  • Look near debris piles, old foundations, partially buried pipes, stone, brick, wood, clay tiles and well casings. 
  • Look near farm infrastructure such as windmill sites, holding tanks, outbuildings, outdoor electrical boxes, abandoned utility poles, well pumps, hand pumps and motors. 
  • Consider other aids, including aerial photos or geophysical surveys. 
  • Deep pits or unusual depressions with seepage and areas with stunted, dead or no vegetation. 
  • Remnants of a well, such as piping, storage tanks, well access trails or roads, cement or stone drilling pads, and old drilling equipment (bits, cable, steel rods, metal casings, etc…)

For additional information visit: Locating existing water, gas or oil wells | 

There are thousands of known abandoned wells across Ontario including Haldimand and Norfolk Counties.  If a gas or oil well is located on your property that does not have a record, report it to the Ministry of Natural Resources. This will provide valuable information to future generations of land users and developers.  

NOTE: There may be multiple old wells on a single property. 

Inactive gas or oil wells should be plugged/sealed – officially abandoned and decommissioned. “Plugging” a well involves removing piping and sealing the well with a mechanical or cement “plug”. Reclamation refers to the restoring of the land to its natural state and condition. Contact the MNR for oil and gas wells licensing and plugging standards. For various reasons, this does not always happen, resulting in leaking gas and oil wells across Ontario. The person abandoning a well, often the well owner, must hire a licensed well technician, and ensure that they are licensed to construct the same type of well that is being abandoned.  

If you notice a rotten egg scent and suspect a hydrogen sulphide or methane gas leak:

  • Near your home, call the Spills Action Centre of the Ministry of Environment at 416.325.3000 or 1-800-268-6060 (toll-free)
  • Inside your home, call your local fire department — In Norfolk County In Haldimand County 

  • The Abandoned Works Program is a program offered by the Ministry of Natural Resources, to help Ontarians properly plug wells on their property.  Landowners with gas wells can contact the Ministry to determine if their well qualifies for the program.  Please visit for more information.  
  • The MAPSH (Monitoring Methane, Air pollutants, Soil quality and Human health) study aims to: assess health symptoms experienced by participants in relation to indoor air quality and the presence of abandoned oil and gas wells.  This study involves air monitoring within homes that may be impacted by and abandoned gas or oil well.  H2S monitoring specifically can be included. For more information about the study and/or becoming a participant. Contact the MAPSH study team at 647-601-4641 or send an e-mail to [email protected] 
  • If you smell H2S (rotten eggs)near your home and suspect a leaking gas well, contact The Spills Action Centre (SAC) of the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks at 416-325-3000 or (toll-free) 1-800-268-6060 or (TYY) 1-855-889-5775 

CAUTION: Confined Spaces

Small, enclosed spaces such as a cistern, septic tank, some farming and industrial equipment, well (dug / bored wells) or a well pit, may be considered Hazardous Confined Spaces and should never be entered by anyone other than a trained professional.   For more information on Hazardous Confined Spaces please visit: