Plugging of abandoned oil wells to begin next week

Local News

North Dakota’s Oil and Gas is considering whether to confiscate even more oil wells in the wake of a downturn caused by COVID-19.

As of Friday, the state has acquired more than 400 abandoned or unprofitable well sites. Contractors have placed bids for the well-plugging process, and another meeting is set for this coming Monday to organize the projects. The state’s top oil official says the plugging of abandoned wells should begin sometime next week.

“At that point, we’ll be attacking the first 52 wells. There’s another package of about 52 coming right behind that within a couple of weeks. And then there’s a big package potentially coming behind that which is almost 200 wells,” said Lynn Helms, Department of Mineral Resources Director.

One of landowners’ main concerns is the proper reclamation of the land those abandoned wells occupy. The Northwest Landowners Association testified Friday about the importance of doing that job the right way.

“Simply plugging the wells is not enough, reclamation to restore the land’s productivity is imperative. Additionally, many of these old well sites have produced water spills and still have contamination. So the expense of reclamation will be more significant on those sites,” said Troy Coons, Chairman of the Northwest Landowners Association.

Helms says he thinks about 70% of the reclamation projects should be finished this year if the weather cooperates.

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