Energy Workforce Orphaned Wells Working Group Creates State P&A Overview Document

The Council’s Orphaned Wells working group kicked off its first meeting on March 3 to begin discussions with Member Companies regarding orphaned and abandoned wells plugging practices. The working group was initially formed in response to Congressional legislation passed in November 2021 that provides funding and support to state-sponsored orphaned wells plugging programs, starting in the summer of 2022. The Revive Economic Growth and Reclaim Orphaned Wells (REGROW) Act of 2021, which was integrated into the bipartisan infrastructure bill, will provide $4.275 billion for orphaned well cleanup on state and private lands, $400 million for cleanup on private and tribal lands, and $32 million for research.

Energy Workforce has created a comprehensive document that details contact and funding information from all of the state-sponsored orphan well plugging programs.

The overall goal of the working group will be to draw from the wealth of experience from Members to draft a recommended best practices document that will help support and educate the sector for plugging orphaned and abandoned wells. The recommended practices document will detail and emphasize safety standards and requirements that should be considered during the initial bidding process of all upcoming plug and abandon (P&A) projects. The working group has Member representation from both service companies as well as operators, and the draft document will comprehensively cover a wide range of aspects surrounding a plugging job to help ensure that all future P&A jobs are facilitated responsibly and safely.

The Department of Interior released a memo in early January indicating there are more than 130,000 documented orphaned wells – more than twice the amount previously estimated by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. The department has indicated that the release of funds to the states will begin in May or June, which has left the states a narrow timeframe to set up bidding procedures and allocate the received funds appropriately. The working group’s recommended best practice document will help to provide guidance on both to the state-sponsored orphan well plugging programs, as well as the contractors bidding for the jobs.

The Council Orphaned Wells working group, led by the Well Servicing Committee, will host a webinar in early April to provide an overview of the recommended practices on plugging orphaned wells for the sector and host an open discussion from Member and non-member companies. If you are interested in joining the Council’s Orphaned Wells working group, please contact Director Environmental and Technical Phil DeBauche


Phillip DeBauche, Director, Environmental and Technical, writes about the Council’s environmental and HSE efforts. Click here to subscribe to the Energy Workforce newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, activities and more.
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