In California, an idle well is a well that has not been used for two years or more and has not yet been properly plugged and abandoned to the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resource’s (DOGGR) satisfaction. Plugging and abandonment involves permanently sealing the well with a cement plug to isolate the oil- and gas-bearing geologic formation from water. If a well is not properly plugged and abandoned, it may provide a path for oil, gas, or other contaminants to migrate through the well and into drinking water or to the surface. There are approximately 30,000 wells in California categorized as idle.
DOGGR has proposed updated regulations to improve maintenance of idle wells. The regulations specify far more rigorous testing requirements that will better protect public safety and the environment from the potential threats posed by idle wells. The regulations will require idle wells be tested and, if necessary, repaired, or plugged and abandoned.
If well owners become insolvent or desert their idle wells, responsibility for plugging and abandoning the wells often falls to the State. Since 1977, DOGGR has plugged and abandoned about 1,400 wells at a cost of $29.5 million (the funding is from an assessment on production). To reduce the number of wells the State may become responsible for plugging and abandoning, legislative and regulatory changes have been made to create incentives for operators to manage their idle wells by entering into
Idle Well Management Plans (IWMPs). The fees an operator must pay for each idle well have been increased to reflect the potential costs associated with these wells. In 2018, DOGGR collected $4.3 million in idle well fees. That resulted in the plugging and abandonment of over 1,000 idle wells−476 of them in compliance with an IWMP.
The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) is hosting informational workshops on the implementation of new regulations for Underground Injection Control (UIC) and Idle Well Testing and Management (Idle Wells).
Underground injection control regulations have been finalized and will be effective
April 1, 2019. Idle well testing and management regulations are in the process of being finalized, with an anticipated effective date of
April 1, 2019.
For further information related to workshop dates and locations, please view
NTO 2019-05: Implementation Workshops on New Regulations - Underground Injection Control and Idle Well Testing & Management (PDF).
On February 12, 2019, the Department of Conservation sent public notice regarding a modification to proposed regulations entitled
Requirements for Idle Well Testing and Management. The 15-day public comment period ended on February 28, 2019 at 5:00 p.m.
15-day Public Notice
Preliminary 2018 Calendar Year Inventory of idle wells is available for download. This inventory is missing all wells that became idle in the 2018 calendar year.
Final Orders to Plug and Abandon wells to eight operators, corresponding to 35 idle wells, in response to unpaid idle well fees in 2018. Additional Orders will be issued over the coming months.