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Orphan Well Program Overview

Michigan Orphan Well Program

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy - Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division (OGMD) worked with the oil and gas industry for 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 OGMD utilizes the Orphan Well Fund to plug abandoned or improperly closed oil, gas, or brine disposal wells and conduct associated cleanup activities where no owner or operator is known, for which owners or operators are insolvent, or where an environmental emergency is declared. 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.

Before initiating corrective actions, the Supervisor of Wells must determine that the owner is unknown or insolvent or that there exists an imminent threat to public health and safety. 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 most current Orphan Well Fund Annual Reports can be found below.

Identification of Orphan Wells

An orphan well or facility is one where the owner is unknown or insolvent. If you believe there is a well on your property, or discover what you believe to be an abandoned oil or gas well, you should report it to the OGMD. When the OGMD is notified about an old well, an investigation occurs to determine if it qualifies as an orphan well. If approved, the well is placed on a prioritization list. Wells are plugged in relation to greatest need based on several scoring factors (i.e., leaks, population density, groundwater, age, structural integrity etc.)


If you are a landowner, there is no cost to you for the resulting plugging and site restoration. The Orphan Well Fund is supported solely by industry.


Bill Duley, OGMD Field Operations Section, Geologist Specialist, Orphan Well Unit

Keith Kidder, OGMD Field Operations Section, Geologist Specialist, Orphan Well Unit