Legislators want to see faster progress on abandoned wells solution

Sep 26, 2013

Credit Irina Zhorov

A legislative committee would like to see faster progress on a program to plug abandoned oil and gas wells. That was the message for Oil and Gas Supervisor Grant Black at a meeting of the legislature’s Minerals Committee today.

Committee members criticized Black for not providing a concrete plan for plugging or repurposing the wells. There are currently 1,200 orphaned wells in the state, and that number is expected to double in the next year.

Black said his agency will start work next spring to plug 200 to 300 wells in a year. He said that process should give the Commission an idea of how to proceed in following years. Black emphasized that the specifics of each well or group of wells will have a big impact on how much the agency can accomplish. He’s already expecting challenges – starting with finding companies to do the work.

“There just aren’t as many companies out there today that have the willingness and capabilities, even the equipment, to plug these wells,” Black said.

But Representative Tom Reeder said Black needs to bring the committee options, rather than continue to outline what the challenges are.

“We look to you to come to us and say ‘here’s my suggestions, here’s what we need to do and we need to have this done in 3 years, 5 years, 7 years, and this is the amount of money I need. I mean, we need a business plan,” said Reeder.

Black responded with an apology and said he needed more input about the goals of the project.

The committee set the goals during a break. They asked Black to develop a plan that would deal with all abandoned wells within four years and deliver it to them before its next scheduled meeting, in November.