The state has started plugging some of the thousand-plus orphaned wells in the Powder River Basin. The wells are relics of the coal-bed methane bust, when many companies went bankrupt and walked away without closing their wells. The state has taken on responsibility for plugging them, using a combination of revoked bonds and funds from a production tax.
Oil and Gas Supervisor Mark Watson says they had hoped to start plugging wells a little bit sooner, but that there were scheduling conflicts to take into account.
According to new estimates from the Governor’s office, plugging abandoned oil and gas wells in Wyoming could cost anywhere from $8 to $32 million.
The smaller figure takes into account only wells that the state knows are abandoned. The larger one includes wells owned by bankrupt methane farming company Luca Technologies and the 2300 wells the state considers ‘at risk’ for abandonment.
That number of 'at risk' wells is twice previous estimates. The Governor's policy director, Shawn Reese, says the discrepancy can be traced back to the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.