Washington, D.C. – Today, a bill written by Representatives Stephanie Bice (R-OK) and Conor Lamb (D-PA) passed out of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee unanimously. The Abandoned Well Remediation Research and Development Act would establish an abandoned wells research, development, and demonstration program at the Department of Energy.
“Nearly half a million wells have been drilled in my home state of Oklahoma, and while they support hundreds of thousands of jobs when active, legacy sites and abandoned wells have become a problem for landowners,” said Rep. Bice, who serves as Ranking Member of the Environment Subcommittee. “The Oklahoma Energy Resources Board does a great job of cleaning up well sites, but we must focus on innovation in this area to help rein in the costs associated with plugging wells around the country.”
“Oklahoma has a proud tradition of producing clean American energy. When you drive across our state, you’ll see abundant gas and oil fields with active wells. You’ll also see wells that have completed their original use lifecycle and are now abandoned. There are thousands of these abandoned wells in our state alone. But with the right investments in research and development, these abandoned wells don’t have to be an environmental hazard or cease beneficial use. These wells have the potential to produce more reliable, clean energy that can serve communities across the nation,” said Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK). “H.R. 4270, the Abandoned Wells Remediation Research and Development Act, makes these investments and unlocks this potential. It facilitates research to identify new materials, advanced technologies, and improved methods to locate abandoned wells and explore innovative possibilities to utilize them. As the Ranking Member of the Environment Subcommittee, Rep. Stephanie Bice is leading the way in these issues and I applaud her for working on and introducing this important legislation.”
There are estimated to be 700,000 to 3,000,000 abandoned wells in the U.S., costing between $30,000 to $1,000,000 per well to plug. Wells in remote locations, like tribal lands, are more difficult to locate and plug, thus increasing the cost and likelihood they remain unmitigated. Improving the technologies and methods associated with the plugging and remediation process for abandoned wells could reduce the overall costs, improve the efficiency of remediation, mitigate environmental harms, and reduce methane emissions.
The research and development program established by H.R. 4270 would provide an initial authorization level of $30 million in FY 22, and increase to $35 million in FY 26, for the sole purpose of researching, developing, and demonstrating technologies to reduce the cost of plugging, remediating, and restoring abandoned or orphaned wells. It would also improve technology to pinpoint and map the location of abandoned wells.
Read the bill here.