The topic of an upcoming meeting in Gillette is the state's plan for plugging abandoned natural gas wells.
The number of abandoned wells in Northeastern Wyoming is growing and nearly 3000 wells need to be filled soon.
“So they'll go in and cement the wells from the bottom all the way to the top, and take off the equipment that was on the surface and then reclaim the land or area that was disturbed.” Said Bruce Hinchey of Petroleum Association of Wyoming.
Operators in Northeast Wyoming have abandoned more than 1,200 methane gas wells, and another 2000 wells are about to join that list.
When the gas runs out the wells then need to be filled before becoming an environmental hazard.
“So there won't be any water or any future gas or anything else that will escape from the formations up to the surface.” said Hinchey.
The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission usually has one million dollars set aside to help fill these wells. But with the speed they are drying up. The legislature recently approved three million dollars to help plug them more quickly.
“That three million dollars is actually coming from the funds that we hold in reserve that are a result of conservation taxes that are paid by the industry.” said Grant Black of The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Many of the abandoned wells result from companies going bankrupt. Leaving the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission with the responsibility of filling them.
“The parties that originally operated them had somehow gone bankrupt or left the state for a variety of reasons. and when that happens they forfeit the bonding they had left with the commission and that bonding in part is used to plug wells.” said Black
Governor Matt Mead will be at a meeting at Gillette College on April 2nd to talk to state officials and the public about the plugging abandoned wells program.