Oil and gas
Oil and natural gas production, and salt solution mining are generally safe – but they include flammable, explosive or poisonous fluids that can threaten public safety and the environment.
Learn how to identify oil and gas risks.
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The very first commercial oil production in North America started in Ontario in 1858. Since that time, many tens of thousands of wells have been drilled in the province, predominantly in southern Ontario. Today, we have more than 3,000 active oil and gas wells in Ontario. Some orphaned wells may not have any visible infrastructure above ground.
The following are potential hazards associated with oil and gas wells:
- Leaking wells – if fluids are escaping from the well, there may be surface indications such as soil staining and vegetation die-off.
- Hydrogen sulphide – a poisonous gas (rotten egg smell) that may be released from leaking wells.
- High pressure / flammability – natural gas and oil may be released at high pressures around wells. These fluids are flammable and combustible.
- Subsidence – sinking of the ground over existing or past solution-mined caverns.
- Blowouts – occur when unexpected natural gas is encountered and gas/oil/ fluid is released at the drilling rig sometimes resulting in fires or spills.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s Petroleum Operations Section (POS) develops and enforces the Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act, regulations and provincial operating standards.
If you are instructed by emergency officials to evacuate, do so immediately.
If you are a property owner:
- Check to determine if there are any records of petroleum wells before developing a property. Check with your municipality for any setback requirements.
- Have a contingency plan to deal with any unrecorded wells, especially in an area of known activity.
If you are considering buying property:
- check to determine if there are any records of petroleum wells
Wells are not registered on title. If you purchase a property with a well, you should consult with your lawyer and insurance provider to determine responsibilities.
Information about wells can be obtained through the Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Library.
Take the following steps so you and your family are prepared in the event of an oil and gas emergency:
- Keep instructions for shutting off gas and water valves handy and read them carefully.
- Make a Family Emergency Plan consisting of alternative shelter, evacuation routes and family household communications.
- Avoid building over top of a petroleum well.
- Be aware of the potential hazards of wells and seek out technical assistance for petroleum wells. Should you determine property has a petroleum well, ensure it is plugged according to regulation standards.
For more information contact the Petroleum Operations Section by telephone at