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Well reclamation in the Bakken

North Dakota oil wells that no longer produce oil for a time period of over one year are classified as abandoned. State law dictates that these wells must begin producing oil again or be plugged and reclaimed.

However, companies are able to apply to have wells placed on temporary abandoned status, reports KFYR TV. This year a Democratic lawmaker requested a recommendation from the Industrial Commission regarding its role in reclaiming abandoned wells and an appropriate time frame for doing so.

Commission member Attorney General Wayne Stehenjem said, “The Industrial Commission is not required to do it under the statute but we do have the authority under the law to adopt rules to require reclamation of abandoned wells and the Industrial Commission has done just that.”

Currently, there are over 300 wells classified as being temporarily abandoned, 200 of which have remained in that status for up to seven years. According to a spokesperson for the Department of Mineral Resources, companies generally request this status when deciding a well’s future and its purpose. During the most recent legislative session a bill was passed that would allow land owners with temporarily abandoned wells to express concerns and voice complaints to the department.

As reported by KFYR TV, Department of Mineral Resources spokesperson Alison Ritter said, “If a well has been on temporary abandoned status for more than seven years the surface owner can come in and request a review. They can do that through notice and hearing. We’ll hold a hearing and we’ll have the company come in and have them supply that additional evidence as to why they should keep it on temporary abandoned status.” It isn’t until a company is unable to cover the cost of reclamation that the state steps into the mix. In the past five years, the commission has only had to plug two wells, and plans to plug another this coming year.


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