As abandoned oil wells climb, regulators consider ways to stop problem from worsening
The number of abandoned oil and gas wells are becoming a problem within North Dakota. It has grown 10% over the past two years to total more than 700. The problem can escalate to a similar challenge that Pennsylvania faced when the cost of plugging and reclaiming of the sites become the responsibility of the state. New rules drafted by the Industrial Commission are scheduled to appear in front of hearings in October.
The changes that are being proposed is that abandon wells sold by one company to another must be fully bonded by the purchaser. The bond is an assurance of money that would pay for the closing of the sites.
Wells can stay unplugged for years without action, however state law passing in 2015 that resulted in a change in law that landowners can request that regulators act on the wells after seven years. There is also an increase of “temporarily abandoned” wells that are inactive after a year. Under the proposed new rules, the seven year will apply to these wells and will acquire additional bonding if wanting to stay within that status. An additional rule change that is proposed is to double the bond requirement for commercial inject wells that are used to dispose of saltwater underground.