The Division’s Oil and Gas Program staff recently plugged 15 orphan wells on private land in Carbon and Emery counties. Approximately 70% of the project’s cost will be paid through bonds collected from the operators on the wells, and the remaining will be paid out of the orphan well fund. No tax dollars are used in the plugging of these wells.

Approximately 20 orphan wells remain in the program’s database, compared to other states, which have thousands. 

Program staff actively monitors and works with operators to plug wells that are no longer producing to prevent a backlog of wells that could become orphaned. This proactive approach protects against future orphan wells and is one of the main reasons the orphan well count in Utah is much lower than most other states.

The program has plugged over 100 wells and is funded by oil and gas producers through a .002 levy on the value of production and not through tax dollars. The fund is used to pay for plugging and reclamation of orphan wells where there is no reclamation surety or where the forfeited surety is insufficient to cover the plugging and reclamation costs. The program has expended approximately $2.5 M to plug orphan wells since its inception in 1992. 

Utah is eligible to apply for funds available through the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to address orphan wells on state and private lands. While Utah’s inventory is currently low, staff intend to apply for what they think is needed and can be spent once the application period opens.