New rules effective earlier this year are having a positive impact in reducing California's inventory of nearly 30,000 idled oil and natural gas wells, according to a report issued Wednesday to the state legislature.
Assembly Bill 2729, which took effect in April, provided for more fees and stiffer requirements to deal with abandoned wells. Passed in 2016, the law requires testing, compliance schedules, data collection, as well as idle well plans with an engineering analysis and the use of observation wells.
A report on the progress in 2018 was provided by the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR).
"This report demonstrates that DOGGR has made significant progress to identify idle wells, increase funds to address wells that are not properly plugged, and work with operators to reduce the overall inventory of wells," regulators said.
DOGGR said it collected $4.3 million last year in idle well fees from operators and oversaw the development of 76 idle well management plan. It said 988 long-term idle wells were eliminated during the year.
The “idle well regulations provide for the most rigorous testing standards in the country to prevent damage to life, health, property, and natural resources," DOGGR noted.
California has around 29,292 idle wells with more than 17,000 classified as long-term, or at least 20 years old. During 2018, 1,346 of the idle wells were permanently plugged, and another 107 idle wells were re-activated.
On the required idle well management plans, DOGGR received submittals from 76 operators, and 52met compliance requirements. Another 16 operators voided their submittals and filed idle well fees totaling $461,000. The remaining eight plans were canceled for failing to comply with the requirements.
Eliminating nearly 1,000 long-term idle wells last year exceeded all expectations, according to DOGGR, and nine operators eliminated more idle wells than which they were required. DOGGR also issued orders to plug wells to 14 operators that failed to file idle well fees.