Slow Work Cleaning Up Old Wells in NPR-A

The federal  Bureau of Land Management says that it has already cleaned up two of what are called Legacy Wells this year in the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska.   But work on a third one is unlikely this year unless another avenue of funding comes through.

The old well sites are owned by the federal government and were among 137 drilled between 1944 and 1981 to explore the petroleum reserves in the area.   Most of them were abandoned and are out of compliance with state and federal environmental standards.  Only sixteen have been satisfactorily cleaned up.

K-J Mushovic  with the Bureau of Land Management says remediation work on the Umiat Six and Seven wells were completed this spring.   Umiat is located about a hundred miles south of Prudhoe Bay.

However, she says  the Iko  Bay Number One well near Barrow is leaking natural gas and is at the top of the agency’s  list  of wells that need plugging.

In the relative vicinity of that well, there are additional wells we might be able to look at maximizing cost efficiency.  So BLM is putting together packages with different options to send to Washington for consideration for possibly getting more than just the Iko Bay well plugged as part of a plan.

Anchorage Republican Charisse Millett sponsored a resolution the legislature passed this year noting the more-than $9-Billion the federal government has received in leases for NPR-A – and asking the properties be remediated.

Millett says forty-eight of the wells are completely out of compliance based on federal and state standards with nothing having been done on them.   And several have been badly plugged.   She says The B-L-M has to understand that the state will not relax until all the well sites are clean.  She’s has talked to the state’s Congressional delegation about a statutory requirement that a percentage of future lease sales be dedicated to remediation.

When we set up TAPS, we have a remediation fund to take TAPS down, and that’s something that I think going forward in the future that we should be aware of when we deal with the federal government so we insure that Alaska’s land is taken care of in the way Alaska seeks it. And we hold every other operator to that same standard.

She says a current list of the wells and remediation costs is not available although a BLM status report is expected to be released sometime in the next fiscal year.