Producers will save up to C$170 million (US$160 million) due to the first step alone in a planned series of reforms to Alberta natural gas and oilfield regulation, the provincial energy department predicts.

The bonus is being generated by simplifying approval requirements of the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board. The changes affect technical procedures rather than substantial rights of either producers or landowners who have surface rights atop Crown- or publicly-owned and leased subsurface gas and oil properties.

The simplification program concentrates on next-generation unconventional supply development led by the main Canadian gas-producing jurisdiction’s desire to attract shale project development. Although Energy Minister Ron Leipert has announced royalty reductions for use of the new technology, he has repeatedly reported that regulatory reform has been repeatedly identified as at least as important as the fiscal regime during the Alberta government’s continuing “competitiveness review.”

Under improvements already adopted, for instance, shale gas and coalbed methane projects have been granted an accelerated approval process for multiple horizontal wells drilled from single pads or surface locations. Previously, all legs in the spiders’ webs had to be approved separately. The change recognizes that the new production techniques do not increase surface disturbance.

Next steps in the regulatory reform process focus on similar technical issues with one major exception. The program includes province-wide consultations on improved work with aboriginal communities affected by gas and oil developments.

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