Texas Receives Federal Funds for Orphan Well Cleanup

The $25 million is an initial grant from the recent Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed last November.

President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law earmarks around $4.7 billion to address the plugging of orphan oil and gas wells across the US.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced on 25 August that Texas has been awarded an initial grant of $25 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to begin work to plug, cap, and reclaim orphaned oil and gas wells across the state. Texas has indicated that it will use the funds to plug 800 documented wells, which were selected based on their higher risk as indicated by greater depth and hydrogen sulfide emissions. Funds will be used to acquire equipment and vehicles and hire personnel, including four administrative positions and 20 inspectors to witness contracted well plugging. Additionally, Texas plans to use this funding to develop a methodology to measure and track methane and other gases.

Methane leaking from many unplugged wells is a serious safety hazard and is a significant cause of climate change, being more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Documented Orphan Wells Since IIJA Enactment.png
The number of orphan wells per state as of the enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Texas Railroad Commission

The Texas Railroad Commission said the funding may also be used for other allowed activities including the remediation of soil and restoration of native species habitat on land adjacent to orphaned wells, and to decommission or remove associated pipelines, facilities, and infrastructure. In total, Texas will be eligible for at least $319 million in funds based on current data estimates and $25 million in initial grant funds for a total of approximately $344 million. The amounts are subject to change.

The commission said it will utilize its existing State Managed Plugging Program to oversee this effort and will issue solicitations for contractors for well plugging.

The map shows 6,004 Texas wells plugged and closed as of January 2022.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law delivers one of the largest investments in addressing legacy pollution in American history, including a $4.7-billion investment to plug orphaned wells.

The Texas investment is part of an overall $1.15 billion in fiscal year 2022 funding announced in January by the DOI for states to plug and remediate orphaned wells. States will receive additional funding dollars in the coming months. In addition, an initial $33 million was recently allocated to plug 277 wells on federal public lands.