Taxpayers on hook to plug shale wells at costs far higher than previously thought - Front Page Live

Taxpayers on hook to plug shale wells at costs far higher than previously thought

  • 06/24/2020 10:47 am ET Nathan Kauffman
descriptive image of oil and gas well

Bureau of Land Management

The cost of plugging oil and gas shale wells is about ten-times greater than traditional wells, and taxpayers will likely be stuck with the bill, according to a new report.

Shale wells, which are typically around 10,000 feet deep, will likely to cost around $300,000 to cap per well, the Carbon Tracker report found. With oil and gas prices plummeting in recent months, and over 200 oil and gas bankruptcies since 2015 — with more expected in the coming months — taxpayers will likely be forced to foot the bill to cap wells that would otherwise release tons of greenhouse gasses including the extremely heat-trapping methane into the atmosphere. Drilling companies are required to post a bond to cover the cost of capping their wells, but bonding requirements in many states are far too low to cover the looming costs.

Plugging these “orphan wells” could provide a source of economic recovery for oil and gas states by employing out-of-work oil and gas workers to close off the wells and remediate the sites, however. A North Dakota effort using federal coronavirus aid to plug and clean abandoned well and oilfield sites has attracted attention from other oil states, attorney General Wayne Stenehjem told the Bismarck Tribune.

“I told [the Oklahoma Attorney General] I would tell him all about it as long as he didn’t try to steal any of our employees from up here.”

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