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Work continues on oil well reclamation

The director of North Dakota’s Mineral Resources Department said work continues to reclaim a number of older and abandoned oil wells.

Funding to do that is coming from the federal CARES Act. It was proposed as a way to keep some people employed in the oil patch, after things slowed down on the drilling side.

$66 million was set aside for this.

Lynn Helms told the Legislature’s interim Energy Development and Transmission Committee – 391 wells have been identified as orphan wells.

"237 wells are already confiscated," Helms said. "They're on the list to be plugged and reclaimed."

Helms told the Committee there are another 154 where there are legal processes still pending.

"It'll probably be the third of October before all the potential appeal periods will pass," Helms said.

Helms said some operators have spent their own money, and already reactivated or plugged 58 wells that would have ended up on that list. He said $42.4 million has been set aside for the plugging of the 391 wells.

"Reclamation is contracted for 52 wells, at $2.65 million, and that work is getting underway this week," Helms said. "115 more weels are out for bids, at an $8.6 million estimate."

Helms said 66 wells have been plugged, at a cost of $7.1 million.

"We've employed over 700 people for 27,000 man-hours of labor in this project so far," Helms said. "Those are people who would have been on unemployment, but they're working today."

Helms said as the reclamation side ramps up, the project will provide jobs to around 2,000 people.

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