• UAV Exploration

Webinar: Federal Orphaned Well Program

The Bureau of Land Management hosted a webinar in January 2022 focused on addressing the Federal Orphaned Wells Program. A recorded version of the webinar is available here. UAV Exploration understands the increasing importance of locating and plugging abandoned oil and gas wells. As such, we want to provide the most relevant resources for the industry on an ongoing basis.


BLM is leading the Federal Orphaned Well Program to remediate orphaned wells on Federal Lands. This multi-agency effort includes DOI Land Management Agencies, the U.S. Forest Service (USDA), the U.S. Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Interstate Oil & Gas Commission Compact. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s (BIL) historic investments will help revitalize local economies and support jobs, while addressing environmental impacts from legacy developments.


BIL authorizes DOI to create a grant program to assist states in their efforts to address orphaned wells. Currently, 26 states have indicated an interest. A preliminary analysis from the NOI process indicates that there are over 130,000 documented orphaned wells in the United States — nearly two-and-a-half times the amount previously estimated. $250 million will be allocated to DOI for Federal actions in the program, including salaries, oversight and plugging/cleanup actions. Another $150 million will be available as grant funding to Tribes, administered by Interior’s Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance (OEPC). OEPC will also host a listening session for Tribes in February 2022.


The grants program for States will be administered by DOI separately from the Federal program. Details on how states can apply for grants is expected to be released in early 2022. BLM will be coordinating with other DOI land management agencies, the U.S. Forest Service, and Native American Tribes to work on orphaned well plugging and cleanup on all Federal and Tribal lands. The Federal agencies have formed a technical working group to review and evaluate priority orphaned wells this fiscal year.

The first projects are expected to be implemented in FY 2022, with more in succeeding years.


Much of the work on Federal lands is expected to be contracted out, with contractors also providing recommendations on cleanup actions prior to implementation. BLM employees may be part of the technical evaluation teams on these recommendations across the Federal and Tribal landscape. The first projects are expected to be selected in spring 2022.


The orphaned well program will work to identify orphaned wells and associated infrastructure on federal land and then plug, remediate, and reclaim these wells and the surrounding land. Orphaned wells will be prioritized by public health and safety; potential environmental harm; and other subsurface impacts or land use priorities. The BLM will coordinate funding and report on costs; potentially responsible parties; measurement of emissions of methane and other gases and contamination of groundwater and surface water; and disproportionate burden on communities of color, low-income communities, and Indigenous communities.


The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.


Credit: Bureau of Land Management

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