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Orphaned Oil and Gas Well Program

Oil and Gas

Orphaned Well Program

Revised On: Nov. 27, 2023 - 1:00 p.m.

ADEQ is working in partnership with the Arizona Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AZOGCC), and with our community and with State and private landowners to address orphaned oil and gas wells and well sites in Arizona.* Funded by a $25 million competitive grant awarded to ADEQ on behalf of AZOGCC by the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), this multi-year program will mitigate potential safety, public health and environmental risks associated with these wells | Learn More >

Because many oil and gas wells in Arizona were drilled in the early 1900s, they pre-date current regulations and may not have been properly plugged.

In addition to the potential orphaned oil and gas wells identified during the research for the grant application, there could be more, and ADEQ encourages community members to report these wells to us so that we can further investigate them for possible inclusion in this program.*

Think you found an orphaned well?

Let us know!  |  Report a Well >

Program Update

As of November 2023, ADEQ has identified just under 200 potential orphaned oil and gas wells eligible to proceed in the program. ADEQ and its contractors are currently in the field physically verifying well locations, assessing conditions and conducting environmental sampling that will be used to prioritize well plugging activities, as well as looking for additional potential orphaned oil and gas wells to include in this program | View/Download Arizona Potential Orphaned Oil and Gas Well Locations as of November 2023 >

Program Phases

ADEQ’s Orphaned Oil and Gas Well Program has four phases that will be carried out over a three-year period, from October 2022 to December 2025:

Phase 1 - Site Assessment — Verify potential orphaned oil and gas wells and their program eligibility* by conducting file reviews to gather information about ownership, location, geology, etc. 

Phase 2 - Site Characterization — State contractors, who are focused on employing displaced oil and gas workers, conduct fieldwork. This includes working with landowners to access potential orphaned well sites, gather additional information about the well and area, verify well locations and conduct environmental sampling of air, soil and water (surface water and groundwater where available). If needed, ADEQ will work with the community and property owners to temporarily restrict well-site access to address public health and environmental concerns before well-plugging activities.

Phase 3 - Well Plugging — Well plugging involves placing cement into the wellbore, at appropriate depth intervals, to seal off zones, or layers, where oil or gas was found, and then placing a permanent cap on the well. Confirmation methane testing will be conducted to ensure the well is plugged correctly. ADEQ will work closely with property owners and nearby community members to coordinate well-plugging activities. 

Phase 4 - Site Remediation — If needed, ADEQ will conduct a cleanup or restoration of the landscape surrounding the plugged well to return the area to its original state. These activities may include removing affected soil, grading the surrounding landscape to match native ground cover and re-planting native species.

Frequently Asked Questions

Orphaned wells are oil and gas wells that are not plugged, not producing, and have no owner or responsible party, so they are wards of the State or other government entities. In Arizona, the majority of these wells were drilled for oil, natural gas, potash (a mineral used in fertilizer) and helium. Orphaned wells may provide a pathway from the wellbore for oil, gas, and other fluids to move underground between different layers, into groundwater, and/or to the land surface. Unplugged or improperly plugged orphaned wells can also be a potential route for methane to move to the air from the wellbore, contributing to increased levels of greenhouse gasses.

Orphaned oil and gas wells generally can be identified by the presence of industrial equipment or facilities at the surface, like tall metal pipes. Orphaned well sites can have a broad range of appearances, from deserted oil and gas production equipment to an open hole in the ground | View/Download Examples > 

Orphaned Oil & Gas Wells in Arizona Fact Sheet | View/Download Fact Sheet >

Stay Informed

Subscribe to receive AZOGCC Orphaned Oil and Gas Well Program email updates  |  Subscribe >

*Please note, that wells located on federal or Tribal lands are not covered under the grant and therefore are not part of the program.