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Alberta Landowners Guide, Compensation and Access

Landowners Guide Cover.jpg
3rd edition
Authors:            Duncan Kenyon, Nikki Way, Andrew Read, Barend Dronkers, Benjamin Israel, Binnu Jeyakumar, Nina Lothian
Publisher: Pembina Institute
Publish Date: October 2016
PDF Download: [Landowners' Guide]              [Landowners' Primer]
Initiation Phase
Exploration Phase
                Geophysical Exploration
                Compensation and Access
                Landowner and Occupant Rights
Development Phase
Pipelines and Other Infrastructure
Environmental Impacts
Abandonment and Reclamation
Compensation, Rights, and Hearings


There is no legislated requirement for a company to pay compensation for entry and access for seismic activity, since the landowner can deny access.[1] You may want to contact a surface rights or landowner consultant before you sign an agreement on compensation.

It is common practice for seismic operators to offer compensation to all parties affected by the exploration program. This compensation is usually based on the length of the line(s). Compensation agreements should be defined similar to any other agreement. You have the full authority to set your own price.

Terms, dates and conditions need to be clear — for example if you say “no ruts,” then you should define a “rut,” such as “any tire depression that is deeper than 1 cm.” While access fees are typically paid within 30 to 90 days following completion of the exploration program, payment may be requested prior to or shortly after the program starts. Seismic data is property but it is difficult to place a lien against it if access payments are delayed; as such, it is advisable to obtain payment before granting access. The company is liable for any damages it causes. Advice on negotiating with a company is provided in Before the Project Starts.

Table 2. Your rights around oil and gas exploration on your land

I am the landowner
What your input is
You can have a word on anything and make a final decision.
Decision process and appeal options
You have the final word. If you refuse access to your land for exploration, the company may decide to conduct seismic exploration from an adjacent property or using a road allowance.
How you can negotiate compensation
You are fully entitled to negotiate compensation; however, there is no legislated requirement that details the amount companies need to compensate.
I lease private land that is not under Agricultural Lease
What your input is
The landowner has all rights to negotiate with the exploration company.
Decision process and appeal options
You don’t have much say other than talking to the landowner, as this specific case is not detailed in regulation.
How you can negotiate compensation
You should ask the landowner to negotiate with the company a compensation for the inconvenience and potential damage, as it is common practice for seismic operators to offer compensation to all parties affected by the exploration program. This compensation is usually based on the length of the line(s).
I have an Agricultural Lease
What your input is
It is recommended that your rights and compensation in the event of seismic exploration be detailed in the lease agreement.
Decision process and appeal options
It is usually recommended that the lease specify that the landowner has exclusive right to allow or refuse entry upon the land, while the lessee should be granted input regarding details such as access, timing, compensation.
How you can negotiate compensation
The landowner typically receives payment for entry, access and recording. As a lessee you receive compensation for crop damages and disturbance. If you disagree with the amount negotiated with the company you can apply to the Surface Rights Board, which may review the amount and make a compensation order.[2] If, after the operations, you notice unexpected damage or destruction (to crops, livestock, buildings, etc.) you can apply to the Surface Rights Board for a compensation order.[3]
I lease public or Crown land
What your input is
Companies need to obtain from the Minister an approval to explore. Once granted, they need to obtain your written consent.
Decision process and appeal options
If you refuse to provide the exploration company with your consent, the company can apply to the Surface Rights Board for Right of Entry. In case of operational or land use concern, you can request a review by a Local Settlement Officer (LSO), who will facilitate a negotiation between parties. If negotiation fails, the LSO makes an adjudicated determination. Under certain conditions you can appeal the LSO decision by making a request to the Review Committee, which may also seek to facilitate an agreement. The Committee should render a biding decision within 10 working days.[4]
How you can negotiate compensation
It’s common practice for seismic operators to offer compensation to all parties affected by the exploration program. This compensation is usually based on the length of the line(s).

Questions to Ask Before Granting Right of Entry

Before granting right of entry to your property by signing a permit agreement, you should find out exactly what is involved.[5] Here are some issues you may want to address in your written agreement with the company:


Where is the seismic activity planned on the property?
Ask to see the area on a map and on an aerial photo, if one is available. You can also see the area on Google Maps (or equivalent service) if the company provides you with the GPS coordinates of the line(s).
What type of equipment will be used?
Heavy equipment can compact the soil and impact crop growth in future seasons, especially if the ground is not frozen at the time of exploration. For this reason it is important to minimize the area affected by equipment. Compaction can be reduced if the company uses vehicles that have low ground pressure tires or tracks. Where appropriate, you may wish to negotiate the kind of equipment to be used.
Will helicopters be used to deliver equipment?
Helicopters might be used to reduce the amount of clearing needed for surveying and crew access. If noise from helicopters is likely to disturb livestock, the animals should be moved.
Are the source points placed to respect minimum distances from structures such as buildings, water wells, dams or septic tanks?
You may want to negotiate with a company to keep the source points of seismic waves further away than the minimum setback distances required by the Exploration Regulation.
When will the seismic work be conducted?
Seismic crews often work day and night, seven days a week.
After an agreement has been signed, how soon will the work start?
Inquire when the work will be carried out and discuss any concerns you may have with respect to the timing of operations.


What will the company do to prevent disturbance of the soil by equipment?
If the topsoil is damaged it may take longer for the site to restore itself.
How many fence lines will be crossed?
It may be preferable to give the company permission to cut and repair fences, rather than have the seismic crews travel across much longer routes to use gates. A shorter route will minimize surface damage and soil compaction that can be caused by heavy equipment.
As a landowner, you may want to negotiate compensation for any fence cuts and repair the fence cuts yourself, to ensure the repairs are completed to your satisfaction.
Can any sensitive land be avoided?
Susceptible land (e.g., a spring-fed dugout, steep slopes subject to erosion) can be set “off-limit”; the company can be asked to offset their survey line around the area.
Can the clearing of trees be minimized?
Companies may be able to reduce the width of the survey line to 1.5 metres, by drilling shot holes from special all-terrain vehicles and hand-clearing receiver lines. Make sure that the width of seismic line is indicated on the contract, as it may be up to 8 metres.[6]
In forested areas, clearing and cutting straight lines increases the vulnerability of wildlife to predators and hunters and has a visual impact. It is possible to reduce the line of sight by setting out a meandering line.
Will the route go through any trees?
Find out whether it is possible to realign the seismic line or offset it around the trees, if you want to keep them.
Will the company use wooden flags?
Wire pin flags are not allowed for seismic operations on private land in Alberta unless the landowner/occupant gives permission. Their use should be refused since normal farming activities, such as making silage or hay, can shred wire pin flags left in the fields, and can result in injury or death to livestock that eat the feed.[7]


Will the company test your water well before and after the seismic activity?
A test before seismic activity will provide a baseline, should problems arise later. Ask to obtain a copy of the results.
Will the line be kept away from ditches and low-lying land?
This will prevent surface water and pollution from entering the seismic holes.
How will shot holes be plugged?
You may want to negotiate with the company to put the plug close to the bottom of the hole instead of the standard requirement of one metre below the surface.
What will be done with the drill cuttings?
Any drill cuttings left over after plugging the hole will usually be spread on the surface, but occasionally landowners want them removed, as explained in the text.
Will the company leave the land in the same condition as when they entered it?
It is best if all wastes are removed, since as burning of waste is often preferred option for companies and low temperature burning affects air quality.
Will the company fill any flowing shot holes?
Though a company is legally required to ensure that all shot holes are properly plugged (including any that may have blown out) to prevent any release of water,[8] it is advisable that this requirement be explicitly stated in the permit agreement. Flowing holes have occasionally caused problems for landowners.
Will the company need to return in spring to clean up after winter operations?
You may prefer to ask if the company will pay you to carry out the clean-up operations. It is important for the landowner to conduct their own check, even when the company does the clean-up, to ensure that fences are intact, holes have been properly filled and no materials remain that could injure livestock.
How much compensation will you be paid?
Compensation should include money for crop loss, fence cuts, destruction of trees, or other adverse effects on the land.
Do you need a special condition to restrict access to certain locations?
Although the working operations are limited to the area specified on the permit form, a company may cross other lands for access.
Do you need a penalty clause in the agreement?
If the company has agreed to conditions beyond the legal requirements, you will have to enforce them yourself. It is difficult to enforce special conditions without a penalty clause, although this may not be easy to negotiate.
Have you included all agreed-to items in a written attachment to the permit form?
It is important to have everything in writing. This may include the way in which operations are conducted and their timing.

If you agree to provide access, you will be asked to give written consent. A standard permit form, Permit to Conduct Geophysical Operations (revised in 2009), should be used.[9] This form was developed by the Canadian Association of Geophysical Contractors, in association with the Farmers’ Advocate Office and other government and industry bodies.[10] The permit should describe exactly where and when seismic activity will occur and indicate the amount of compensation to be paid by the company.

Include everything you want the company to do, and everything you want to ensure the company does not do, as written conditions in the permit agreement. You may want to execute an Addendum to the Permit if you need more space to list these. If you do so, it is imperative that the Permit refers to the Addendum.

When all the seismic exploration is complete, be sure to review all seismic lines, checking to ensure that holes are properly plugged and that clean-up is complete (or scheduled to be completed) before signing the Geophysical Operations Release form.[11]


  1. This material is from the Pembina Institute publication 'Landowners' Guide to Oil and Gas Development, 3rd edition (2016)'
  2. Alberta, Exploration Dispute Resolution Regulation, 227/2003, pt 2, s 20.
  3. Exploration Dispute Resolution Regulation, pt 2, s 22.
  4. Exploration Dispute Resolution Regulation, pt 1.
  5. In this section, “you” is used to refer to the landowner or occupant.
  6. Seismic Operations and Landowners’ Rights, 14.
  7. Alberta Environment and Parks, Exploration Directive 2006-14: Authorization for Testing and Use of Products in Exploration lists all seismic survey markers approved by the regulation.
  8. Exploration Directive 2006-20.
  9. Farmers’ Advocate Office. 2012. Seismic Operations and Landowners’ Rights;
    https://open.alberta.ca/publications/ag-dex-878-5. p. 12
  10. For information on the Canadian Association of Geophysical Contractors, see Canadian Association of Geophysical Contractors. The permit form should be provided by the seismic operator. An example of the permit form is available at: http://www.strathcona.ca/files/files/at-eep-feb2013-protocol-appendix2a.pdf.
  11. While this form is not available online, a facsimile can be found in the appendix 2a of The Strathcona County Protocol for Seismic Surveying, Drilling, Construction and Operation of Oil and Gas Facilities in Strathcona County. http://www.strathcona.ca/departments/planning-development-services/oil-and-gas-in-strathcona-county/strathcona-county-protocol/