Gov. Edwards and DNR Announce More than 100 Orphaned Wells Plugged with BIL Funding in First Two Months of Work

Government and Politics

March 23, 2023

From: Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards

BATON ROUGE, La. – Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary Tom Harris announced that more than 100 orphaned well sites have been plugged in the first two months of work funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). Another 30-plus wells are anticipated to be plugged by the end of March.

“I am extremely proud that our state has moved quickly to take advantage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and has already plugged more than 100 orphaned wells,” said Gov. Edwards. “I appreciate the hard work that Sec. Harris, his team and the selected contractors have put into ensuring that this crucial work got off to a fast start. Every well site removed is one less pathway for methane, oil, or saltwater contamination to reach the surface. Reducing methane emissions is a key goal of Louisiana’s Climate Action Plan. I would like to thank Representative Troy Carter, Senator Bill Cassidy, and President Biden for their support of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that makes this work possible.”

Thus far, crews have completed work on 103 orphaned well sites – 52 in the Shreveport area and 51 in the Monroe area. In the initial month of work, crews plugged 23 wells, and as work crews continue to be ramped up, the pace of well work has accelerated. The two primary contractors chosen by DNR had seven crews running in the first month of work and have expanded that to more than a dozen, with work expected to be continuous through October 2023

“Our contractors have worked quickly to get crews in the field so they could get ahead of the spring rains that often make many of these sites inaccessible,” Harris said. “They have set a strong pace early and we hope to see that momentum continue through the end of this Initial Grant funding, and hopefully make the case for increasing the amount Louisiana receives in later rounds of funding.”

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is providing the BIL funding, having awarded Louisiana a $25-million Initial Grant to address orphaned wells in the state. The BIL funding is being administered by the DOI as part of an overall $1.15 billion announced last January for states to plug and remediate orphaned wells. DOI has indicated states will receive additional phases of funding this year – though details have not yet been announced.

The Initial Grant is more than double the average annual amount of funding the regular state Oilfield Site Restoration, with which the state Office of Conservation plugs 120 to 200 wells a year, depending on weather and well locations/depth and the need to draw from the fund to respond to emergencies.

Typically, orphaned well sites in Louisiana are wells designated by the Office of Conservation as not having a responsive operator, either due to the operator going out of business or being unable or unwilling to maintain their sites in compliance with state regulations. Louisiana’s orphaned well count is at about 4,500 sites, accelerated by downturns in the prices of oil and gas in recent years that put financial strains on oil and gas companies and their ability to maintain their sites or their businesses.

DOI announced the funding being awarded to Louisiana in October 2022 and DNR chose its primary contractors in December 2022, with the first well plugged on January 17, 2023 in the Caddo Pine Island Field in Caddo Parish – home to some of the densest well populations in the state, orphaned or operating.

DNR is also using the BIL funding to meet other DOI requirements - including establishing protocols and programs for methane and water quality testing and monitoring; addressing disproportionate impacts to disadvantaged communities from orphaned wells; and creating jobs to restore oilfield sites.

Orphaned well sites the state plans to be addressed with these Initial Grant contracts are primarily located in north Louisiana, a region that has a greater concentration of orphaned wells. The Office of Conservation’s Shreveport and Monroe districts contain more than 3,100 of the state’s roughly 4,500 current orphaned well sites.

Contractors interested in future contracts, as well as the general public interested in progress of DNR’s BIL initiatives, can visit www.dnr.la.gov/fedprojects to get the latest updates and information on DOI guidance, DNR activity and BIL orphaned well projects in Louisiana. For more general information on BIL projects across Louisiana, including an interactive map with projects broken down by type and congressional district, the public should go to infrastructure.la.gov.