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By the Numbers: Video highlights steady progress in plugging orphan wells in Michigan, 200 in 2023 alone

Staffers of the Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division (OGMD) of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) report steady progress is being made in plugging Michigan’s abandoned oil and gas wells, known as orphan wells.

Thumbnail from orphan wells video showing Bill Duley, EGLE geologist in EGLE’s Orphan Well Unit.

Bill Duley, geologist in EGLE's Orphan Well Unit, explains how EGLE is plugging orphan wells. 


Orphan wells are abandoned or improperly plugged wells for which there is no known solvent existing owner or operator.

Ultimately, some 450 abandoned oil and gas wells in Michigan will be plugged in the next few years. In 2023 alone, 200 wells have been plugged.

Check out EGLE’s latest video, where Bill Duley, EGLE geologist in EGLE’s Orphan Well Unit, explains the work being done to plug orphan wells in Michigan.

Work on plugging orphan wells has been accelerated thanks to a $25 million grant from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. EGLE has also filed a Notice of Intent to apply for a formula grant estimated to be $5.8 million. When added to the current $1 million state Orphan Well Program, EGLE’s fiscal year 2023 appropriation for addressing more than 400 abandoned wells across the state rises dramatically to $32 million – the single biggest funding increase in the program’s history.

“Through this boost in funding, we hope to do 25 years’ worth of work in the next few years,” says Adam Wygant, director of EGLE’s OGMD. “This additional federal infrastructure money allows us to hire two new staff dedicated to the Orphan Well Program and permanently plug these wells at a rate eight times faster than before, restoring the land for future use.”