U.S. says more than half of states will seek oil well cleanup funds

U.S. says more than half of states will seek oil well cleanup funds

The Biden administration on Wednesday said more than half of U.S. states intend to apply for a portion of the $4.7 billion carved out in the new infrastructure law for cleaning up abandoned oil and gas wells.

A memo issued by the Department of Interior said 26 states had indicated interest in applying for the grants. They include nearly every state with documented orphaned wells, which are defined as wells with an owner that is either unknown or insolvent.

The states include top U.S. crude oil producers Texas, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado. Pennsylvania, which is estimated to have hundreds of thousands of very old abandoned wells, also plans to apply for the funding, Interior said.

Interior’s analysis found there are more than 130,000 documented orphaned wells in the United States — far more than the 56,600 tallied in a report by the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission in 2019. Many more wells exist that were drilled before regulators began requiring documentation in the mid-1900s.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are more than 3 million total abandoned oil and gas wells. About 2 million of those are estimated to be very old and never properly plugged. The agency believes such wells are responsible for most of the methane emitted from abandoned wells.

By Nichola Groom, Leslie Adler, Reuters