February 12, 2016 / 5:28 PM / 4 years ago

Canada government may fund clean-up of spent oil wells: minister

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Ottawa may help pay for the clean-up of spent oil wells, Canadian Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said on Friday.

A crash in crude oil prices has led oil companies to abandon more wells, particularly in the western Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall on Monday asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to pay C$156 million to accelerate clean-up of oil wells in his province that can no longer produce. Such a plan could create 1,200 jobs, Wall said.

Restoring the habitat around old oil wells is a corporate responsibility, but the Canadian government is also aware of the need for jobs in regions hurt by crude oil’s slump, Carr said.

“There are producing provinces that are having a tough time with job losses in the sector,” he said at a news conference after meetings with U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Mexico Energy Secretary Pedro Joaquin Coldwell in Winnipeg.

“So we will consider these requests by the government of Saskatchewan.”

Abandoned wells have no owner, typically after a company goes bankrupt.

Alberta had more than 700 abandoned wells in 2015, four times the total of the previous year, as more oil companies ran into trouble with low prices.

Neighboring Saskatchewan has 100 abandoned wells, and the government expects another 1,000 will be abandoned, said spokeswoman Kathy Young.

The energy ministers agreed in Winnipeg to share information on areas including clean energy technology, carbon capture and reducing emissions from the oil and gas sector.

Additional reporting by Nia Williams in Calgary; Editing by David Gregorio

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