LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) -- The Kansas Corporation Commission is disputing a newspaper article about the number of abandoned oil and gas wells in the state. The Topeka Capital-Journal recently reported that the state has 22,000 abandoned wells. The article was also picked up by the Associated Press. In a news release issued today (THUR), the KCC said the newspaper had misinterpreted the data and that the actual number of abandoned wells requiring action was 5,530. Here's a copy of the KCC's news release:
The Facts About Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells in Kansas
Topeka - A Kansas newspaper recently printed an article focused on the number of abandoned oil and gas wells in the state. The article cites the Kansas Corporation Commission’s annual report to the Legislature as the data source used. The KCC, the agency responsible for regulating oil and gas activities in the state, wants the public to know the numbers used in the article were misinterpreted. The report shows 5,530 wells requiring action, not 22,000 as stated in the article.
The Kansas Abandoned Oil and Gas Well Count contained in the 2019 Abandoned Oil and Gas Well Report to the Legislature does include a reference to 21,922 well "records". However, as noted in the report, that is not the same as saying there are 22,000 abandoned wells in Kansas.
When a well is entered into the KCC’s database as requiring action it becomes part of the permanent record and is never deleted. Instead, well records are assigned specific codes as they are addressed and removed from “requiring action” status.
For example, of the 21,922 well records in the report, 5,530 wells were designated as requiring action. The remaining 16,392 well records were classified based on their status. To provide a few examples: 10,257 were plugged using the Abandoned Well and Site Remediation plugging fund, 1,262 were assigned to new operators, 1,161 were plugged by operators and 1,033 were duplicates in the database.
The KCC recognizes the importance of plugging abandoned wells and is committed to responsible environmental regulation with effective enforcement. Changes in the Conservation division staffing model and efforts to increase the number of plugging contractors to complete projects faster are also putting the agency in a better position to address abandoned wells.
To summarize the information above, the actual number of abandoned well records requiring action in the Abandoned Well Database for the 2019 Legislative Report was 5,530, not 22,000. Steps are in place to improve the processes for plugging abandoned wells and real progress continues to be made. These steps, along with other ongoing compliance efforts by KCC Staff, are designed to protect the citizens of Kansas and the environment in which they live.
The 2019 Abandoned Oil and Gas Well Status report to the Kansas Legislature can be viewed on the Commission’s website.