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Wyoming Begins Effort to Plug Abandoned Wells

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (OGCC) has retained a contractor and begun a long-delayed effort to plug abandoned oil and natural gas wells.

Gillette, WY-based Pluggin Along LLC is lead the state's effort to complete reclamation work on up to 141 wells in the Ucross and Spotted Horse areas of Sheridan and Campbell counties, Gov. Matt Mead said Tuesday. Naming the contractor was a critical next step in the multi-year effort, he said.

An industry official told NGI on Tuesday that the Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW) is fully supportive of the effort launched last year (see Daily GPI, Dec. 11, 2013). The goal is to plug more than 1,200 abandoned wells on state and fee lands (see Daily GPI, Feb. 3).

With estimates that the state's total of orphan wells could climb to 5,700 as an outgrowth of a boom-bust in coal-bed methane, Mead's plan would set an initial $3 million to begin addressing the problems, whose level of severity varies with each stakeholder in the state.

"PAW's board of directors is in full support of the OGCC using conservation tax money to plug orphaned wells as well as reclaim the area associated with them," said Vice President John Robitaille. "We are certainly pleased to see the OGCC getting the process started and believe they can reach the goal of plugging 300 wells per year."

Project funding comes from the conservation tax assessed on production in the state. Pluggin Along's contract specifically covers wellbore plugging, and landowners would have input into surface restoration, according to Mead.

Mead said the plugging effort is part of the state's ongoing efforts to be "a standard-bearer" for "responsible energy development." The state is committed to "protecting and restoring our natural resources for the benefit of our citizens. Protecting our land, water and wildlife is as important as responsible oil and gas development, and in Wyoming we are committed to both."

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