Colorado Taking Action on Orphaned Oil & Gas Wells

By Aug. 1, the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will produce an updated list of all such sites known to exist in the state. Gov. John Hickenlooper's executive order expands state efforts to plug, remediate, and reclaim them and to prevent additional wells and sites from being orphaned in the future.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recently signed an executive order that aims to address safety concerns with more than 260 orphaned oil & gas wells and 360 orphaned sites in Colorado, with the order directing the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to update its list of all such sites known to exist in the state by Aug. 1. His executive order followed a review the governor ordered in the aftermath of the Firestone house explosion in April 2017, which killed two people and injured a third person.

"That tragedy was a catalyst that compels us to improve the safety of Colorado's oil and gas industry," Hickenlooper said July 18. "We send a strong statement of unity when stakeholders throughout the industry agree to take action to remediate orphaned wells and orphaned sites and prevent the issue in the future."

An orphaned well is one where no owner or operator can be found, while an orphaned site is one where a significant adverse environmental impact may be caused by oil and gas operations for which no responsible party can be found. His executive order says the estimated total cost to plug, remediate, and reclaim the existing sites is more than $25 million, and the average cost to plug one of them is six times higher than the among of financial assurance held by the state. By Sept. 1, 2019, the commission is directed to promulgate rules to ensure the sufficiency of financial assurance for this.

The executive order includes these directives:

  • Reduce the backlog of high- and medium-priority orphaned wells and orphaned sites to zero.
  • Engage the oil and gas industry in the plugging, remediation, and reclamation of these wells and sites.
  • Set up a system of financial assurance that prevents future orphaned wells and orphaned sites by providing sufficient funding for plugging, remediation, and reclamation activities.

The public will have access to the list of known sites by Aug. 1, 2018, and the list will be updated annually by the commission.

Julie Murphy, director of the commission, said the order "will accelerate our ongoing work to properly plug and safeguard orphaned wells. This approach is designed to address the issue comprehensively - through more effective prevention of future orphaned locations and more aggressive work to remedy existing priority sites."

Download Center

  • Monitoring and Reporting on Air Emissions for Regulators and the Real World

    When it comes to managing compliance and regulatory issues surrounding air emissions, there are no easy jobs. With interviews from practitioners from American Electric Power, Red Cedar Gathering, Trinity Consultants, and Cority, this eBook provides practical advice to advance your air emissions monitoring and reporting programs.

  • What Every EHS Professional Should Know About ESG

    Join experts from Arcadis and Cority on April 27th to learn the most common ESG reporting frameworks and how technology can help you improve reporting efficiency, identify areas for improvement, and create defensible audit trails.

  • Green Quadrant EHS Software 2021

    Read the new report by independent analyst firm, Verdantix, to get an unbiased comparison of the 22 most prominent EHS software vendors in the industry.

  • RFP Template for Waste Management Software

    Learn the essential questions to ask when evaluating waste management software solutions with this free, ready-to-use RFP template

  • 5 Keys to Best-in-Class Chemical Management

    Running a safe chemical program is challenging and complex: from knowing what's on-site to proper handling and disposal - all while navigating regulatory changes. Learn the best ways to mitigate chemical risk, get the most value out of your data, and gain buy-in for a chemical management solution.

Featured Webinar