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Orphan Well Program
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division (OGMD) and staff of the Orphan Well team administer Michigan’s Orphan Well Program.
This program oversees the final plugging and abandonment of improperly closed oil, gas, or brine disposal wells and the associated facilities and conducts associated cleanup activities for those cases where no owner or operator is known, for which owners or operators are insolvent, or where an environmental emergency is declared.
MI Environment - Orphan well program
Discover the crucial role of Michigan's Orphan Well Program in our latest video, as we unravel the environmental challenges posed by abandoned oil and gas wells. Explore how this initiative is tackling environmental challenges with strategic financial support, ensuring a sustainable future for Michigan's landscapes.
Michigan Orphan Wells Dashboard
This dashboard was created to provide information to interested stakeholders through an interactive and summarized format about the work being done by EGLE’s Orphan Well Program.
Michigan Orphan Well Program
The funding for this work began in 1995 through the passage of Act 308, P.A. 1994, which established an Orphan Well Fund within the Michigan Department of Treasury. The Orphan Well Fund is subject to Part 616, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended. The revenue for the Orphan Well Program comes from a severance tax on the oil and gas industry. Two percent of the severance tax revenue, but not less than $1 million, is credited to the fund annually. Since its inception, almost 400 sites have been restored and wells have been plugged. The OGMD averages between 5 and 10 well pluggings per year with monies from this fund.
Beginning October 1, 2022, OGMD began utilizing federal grant funds awarded under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), 2021, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Section 40601 (BIL), to provide additional financial assistance for the Orphan Well Program. The IIJA created three types of grants for states to apply for to help address orphan wells and orphan facilities on federal, state, tribal, and private lands. Michigan has been awarded $25 million dollars in Initial Grant funds, has applied for approximately $5.8 million in Formula Grant funds, and will apply for Performance Grant funds when the application window opens. This additional funding allowed the Orphan Well Program to plug approximately 200 orphaned wells in calendar year 2023. It is anticipated that work will continue for years while also expanding into environmental remediation of contaminated soils and groundwater at orphaned sites. A yearly Orphan Well List is compiled by OGMD staff which lists the wells scheduled to be plugged and those at which interim response, remedial investigation, remediation, or site restoration should be performed with money from the Orphan Well Fund. The List is arranged in order of priority using the score assessment determined for each well or project. Estimated costs are given for the total cost of each well or project and the cost of each phase of the project (plugging costs, interim responses, etc.) The List also shows the State House and State Senate District in which each well is located. The Orphan Well Fund Annual Reports can be found under Oil, Gas, and Minerals Divisions reports at the link below.
Identification and Prioritization of Orphan Wells
Before initiating corrective actions, the OGMD must determine that the owner is unknown or insolvent or that there exists an imminent threat to public health and safety. Michigan prioritizes wells and associated facilities based on multiple factors, including but not limited to, leaking status, proximity to sensitive receptors, environmental justice factors, and well construction. Orphan wells and facilities were grouped into projects based on factors such as priority level and geographical location. The projects are then awarded to qualified contractors that are completing the work while OGMD's, Orphan Well team provides oversight. Following well plugging or facility decommissioning, the sites are restored as close as practical to original condition and returned to beneficial use.
If you are a landowner there is no cost to you for the resulting plugging and site restoration. The Orphan Well Program is supported solely by the industry and other sources. If you believe there is a well on your property or discover what you believe to be an abandoned oil, gas, or brine disposal well, you should report it to OGMD's, Orphan Well team. After notifying the OGMD about an old well, an investigation will occur to determine if it qualifies as an orphan well.
Acquiring an Orphan Well
Under certain circumstances the OGMD will consider requests to acquire wells from the orphan well list and continue operating these wells. More information about acquiring the permit to operate an orphaned oil or gas well can be found at the link below.