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Summary: Idle Well Program Report for 2022  


The "Idle Well Program Report for 2022" prepared by the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) provides an extensive snapshot of idle and orphaned wells in California in 2022, detailing the status and management of these wells for the reporting period from January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2022. The report is prepared pursuant to various legislative requirements, including Assembly Bill 2729 (Williams, 2016), Senate Bill 724 (Lara, 2017), Senate Bill 551 (Jackson, 2019), Senate Bill 84 (Hurtado, 2021), and Senate Bill 47 (Limón, 2021).


The report does not capture the massive activity related to idle wells that has occurred since December 2022. Over 11,000 idle wells have been plugged in the last two years.  Idle wells dropped below 30,000 just last month for the first time in decades.

Executive Summary


Idle Well Statistics

•   Total Idle Wells: 38,794 wells

•   Long-Term Idle Wells (LTIW): 17,595 wells at some point during 2022

•   Plugged and Abandoned Wells: 3,508 wells

•   Wells Returned to Use: 1,520 wells


Idle Well Management Plans (IWMP)

•   Plans Submitted: 74

•   Plans Approved: 73

•   Non-Compliant Plans: 1

•   Operators in Compliance: 56

•   Voluntarily Voided IWMPs: 14

•   Canceled IWMPs Due to Non-Compliance: 3


Elimination of LTIWs

•   Total LTIWs Eliminated in 2022: 592

•   Eliminations as Part of Approved IWMPs: 447

•   Credits Applied from Prior Years: 145

•   Elimination Credits Earned in 2022: 117


Idle Well Fees Collected

•   Total Fees Collected: $5,221,869.35

•   Penalties and Interest Collected: $61,495.44

•   Total Collected Including Penalties: $5,283,364.79


Orphan Wells

•   Identified Orphan Wells: Over 5,300

•   Estimated Cost for Plugging and Abandoning: Nearly $1 billion

•   State Abandonment Expenditures in 2022: $16,071,882.78 for 129 wells and attendant facilities


California's Idle and Orphan Well Problem

•   Liability Costs: Update on the total liability costs for managing idle and orphan wells

•   Proposed Cost Estimate Regulations: Status of proposed cost estimate regulations for oil and gas operations


Idle and Long-Term Idle Wells in California


Idle Well Statistics

•   Comprehensive list and status of idle and long-term idle wells

•   Status changes of idle wells, including those that were plugged and abandoned or returned to use


Management Plans

•   Requirements and status of IWMPs

•   Non-compliance issues and corrective actions


Orphan Wells

•   Declared orphan wells and the process for prioritizing state abandonment

•   Inventory of deserted and potentially deserted wells


Hazardous Wells and Facilities

•   Identified hazardous wells and attendant production facilities

•   Violations and enforcement actions related to long-term idle wells


Financial Aspects

•   Fees and Collections: Detailed account of idle well fees, penalties, and interest collected

•   Liens: Use of liens to recover costs from operators for non-compliance and abandonment activities


Abandonment and Decommissioning

•   Costs and Timeline: Breakdown of costs associated with plugging and abandoning wells and decommissioning facilities

•   Future Projections: Timeline and goals for future abandonment and decommissioning activities


KEY: The report indicates that current laws and regulations are insufficient to significantly reduce California's idle well population in a timely manner. Enhanced efforts and regulatory changes are necessary to effectively address the growing inventory of idle and orphan wells.


For more information, contact Sean Wallentine.

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