Railroad Commission Exceeds Legislative Goal for Plugging Orphaned Wells for Fifth-Straight Year

September 13, 2021

AUSTIN – When it comes to protecting public safety and the environment, the Railroad Commission shows its commitment through its actions.

The vast majority of operators responsibly plug their wells when production has ceased, but if operators abandon oil and gas wells, RRC’s State Managed Plugging Program steps up to ensure the interests of Texans are protected. In fact, the agency has exceeded the Texas Legislature’s target for plugging orphaned oil and gas wells for the fifth year running, despite challenges brought on by the COVID pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

The State Managed Plugged Program plugged 1,453 orphaned wells in Fiscal Year 2021, which ended on Aug. 31. The legislative goal was to plug 1,400 wells.

“I am proud of what our plugging program has been able to accomplish,” said RRC Director of Field Operations Clay Woodul. “Our plugging staff in the district offices deserve credit for staying on top of these projects and making sure they are done properly.”

Year

Legislative Goal for RRC
to Plug Orphaned Wells

Actual Number of Orphaned Wells Plugged by RRC

2017

875

918

2018

979

1,374

2019

979

1,710

2020

1,400

1,477

2021

1,400

1,453

The total for FY 21 included a notable collaboration with the National Park Service to plug 11 wells at the Padre Island National Seashore near Corpus Christi (pictures below). The work – which occurred from January to March and received funding from the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council – helped preserve precious natural resources for visitors of the park.

RRC helping plug a well in Padre Island National Seashore RRC helping plug a well in Padre Island National Seashore

A major benefit of the State Managed Plugging Program is that it provides work to skilled contractors, which is especially important during periods of economic downturn.

The State Managed Plugging Program is funded through oil and gas industry revenue, including, but not limited to, well plugging reimbursements, fees and financial securities paid by the industry.


About the Railroad Commission:
Our mission is to serve Texas by our stewardship of natural resources and the environment, our concern for personal and community safety, and our support of enhanced development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans. The Commission has a long and proud history of service to both Texas and to the nation, including almost 100 years regulating the oil and gas industry. The Commission also has jurisdiction over alternative fuels safety, natural gas utilities, surface mining and intrastate pipelines. Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state. To learn more, please visit http://www.rrc.texas.gov/about-us/.