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Work continuing on oil well reclamation; fracking project soon to start

A program to plug and reclaim orphaned oil wells, using federal coronavirus relief funds, will continue through the end of the year.

The program uses money from the “Cares Act,” to employ crews who do the plugging and the reclamation of the land.  It was designed to keep some oilfield workers employed – so they could stay in North Dakota.

"We have employed people for over 105,000 man-hours of work," state mineral resources director Lynn Helms told the state Industrial Commission. "We spent $32.5 million on plugging and reclamation."

Helms said over the next 5 weeks, another $23.8 million will be spent.

"There's 170 wells left to plug," Helms said. "It looks like a reasonable task."

Hlems said there are 67 sites left to reclaim.

"Work's going great," Helms said. "The service companies are incredibly grateful for you to put these people to work."

Helms said there will be 190 sites to reclaim next year – and money to do that will come from the abandoned well plugging and site restoration fund, as well as single-well bonds.

The original allocation from the CARES Act was $66 million. $16 million was repurposed for the project to frack "duc" wells -- "duc" standing for "drilled and uncompleted."

Helms said money was set aside to finish 80 wells – and as of last week, his office had received 90 applications, and has approved 72.

"We know they've already added two frack crews," Helms said. "We're confident that we're going to add the completions that we were after," Helms said.

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