Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Department of Mineral Resources to seek federal funds for oil well cleanup efforts

North Dakota will be applying for federal money to continue and expand its oil well plugging and reclamation program.

The new federal infrastructure bill has $4 billion to clean up abandoned oil and gas sites.

State mineral resource director Lynn Helms said the state plans to apply for a $25 million initial grant.

"That's so we can do a lot of work in 2022," Helms said.

Helms said the state will also seek money through the formula grants, that will extend out through 2030.

That means the few hundred idle or orphaned wells that we get will be taken care-of with federal funding," Helms said.

Helms said the federal program mirrors what North Dakota did with some CARES Act money. That money was meant to keep oil workers employed and in the state. He said in that situation, there was a tight time line, and regulators over-estimated how much reclamation work could be done in the last six months of the year – even during a mild winter.

"You can very quickly de-mobilize the equipment, and clean that up, and eliminate any potential for future contamination, as well as remove the surfacing material," Helms said. "But the season for actually reclaiming the site, and testing for contamination and cleaning that up, and getting topsoil back on, that's a four-to-five month season in North Dakota, and that could take multiple years."

The state plugged more than 300 wells over the past two years. Cleanup work continues.

Related Content