Oklahoma Water Resource Board
The Oklahoma Water Resource Board, or OWRB, sets rules and
regulations concerning the state’s well plugging practices to protect
Oklahoma’s fresh groundwater basins from pollution and
waste and safeguard its citizens from accidents.
Old wells, no matter how small or remote, offer the potential for injury -
even death - to animals and humans, especially small children.
These open holes, often hidden by overgrown weeds and brush,
can be dangerous traps.
Pollution of a family well or the well that supplies water to a community
has enormous potential for harm. Debris, small animals and runoff
waters polluted with chemicals and other substances that enter
the groundwater basin through open holes can spoil a water
supply and make it unsafe for drinking for years.
How Much Does it Cost to Cap a Well?
The cost of plugging a well in Oklahoma ranges from $30,000-$36,000. There are 800 abandoned wells listed by the OWRB to be capped, and another 12,000 more that are considered “orphaned” with substantially more to be added. Eventually, all these wells will be cleaned and capped, which will require several billion dollars.
The plugging methods employed on oil and gas wells have improved over time as regulators required better well plugging plans and as operators began to see the benefits of sealing the abandoned wells more securely. When cement was first being used to plug wells, the cement tended to not set up correctly and was often contaminated by the drilling mud and wellbore fluids. Through the implementation of cementing standards by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and more standardized plugging programs, the cement plugs became more uniform.