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Orphan oil well reclamation continues

Department of Mineral Resources

There will likely be another round of CARES Act money to finish some of the oil well reclamation work started last year.

State mineral resources director Lynn Helms said 280 wells have been plugged so far, and a number of those are awaiting full reclamation.

"We only got to about half the well sites that we plugged," Helms said. "We want to make sure we go out there and reclaim that other half, before we go into another plugging phase."

Helms said another 95 wells will be plugged.

"We just confiscated a very sizable bond inventory, and that's going to fund some additional plugging," Helms said.

Helms said this will also give workover rig crews some needed work.

"Those companies are pretty much back to work," Helms said. "But there's not a lot of drilling activity. And they could use another shot in the arm. The reclamation work is going to give them that."

Meanwhile, North Dakota’s program for plugging and reclaiming orphaned oil wells caught the attention of Congress.

"I guess I couldn't be prouder than to say that the Senate took a look at what North Dakota did with orphan wells, and said, 'We need to do this on a national scale," Helms said.

Helms said the bill is called "The Re-grow Act." He said there is a companion bill now in the House.

"The goal is to put up to $25 million per year in the hands of state regulators, to be used for orphan well plugging and reclamation," Helms said.

Helms said the work would be done over a five year period.

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