BLM Announces Major Clean-up Effort of Legacy Wells in NPR-A
February 23, 2016
The wells were drilled decades ago by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Geological Survey and many were abandoned without being properly plugged and remediated. BLM inherited the responsibility to clean up the wells and is making significant progress in doing so this year.
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) secured $50 million for the BLM through the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013 to use toward clean-up efforts of the legacy wells. The agency has already spent $10 million of the Helium Act funding in 2015 to plug three legacy wells at Umiat and conduct surface clean up at well sites in Cape Simpson.
“The Helium Act funding will allow us to clean up a significant number of the legacy wells to protect the public and the environment,” said BLM Alaska State Director, Bud Cribley. “Remediation of the remaining wells will require tremendous additional resources over the coming years, but we are committed to doing our part to finish the job.”
In December 2015 BLM awarded two contracts to Marsh Creek, LLC, and Olgoonik Construction Services, LLC, who will use the remaining $40 million in federal funding to plug and clean up an additional 18 of the remaining 47 wells that still require remediation. Both companies are Alaska Native-owned small businesses and will compete for task orders for the efficient cleanup of priority well sites near Barrow and on the Simpson Peninsula. Marsh Creek is expected to begin work on four wells in the Barrow area in early February.
Between 1944 and 1982 the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) drilled a total of 136 wells in NPR-A. Some wells were used to evaluate the area’s mineral potential, and others are still in use today for climate change studies. BLM assumed management responsibilities for NPR-A in 1976, and in 1982 inherited the responsibility to assess, plug, and clean up those wells that the Navy and USGS left behind. In previous clean-up efforts, starting in 2002, the BLM and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plugged and remediated 21 priority legacy well sites at a cost of $99 million.
In 2013 the BLM conducted a detailed assessment of all 136 legacy wells and concluded that 50 still require remediation. The Legacy Wells Strategic Plan lays out a dynamic and flexible approach to address the highest priority wells, while reemphasizing BLM’s commitment to achieving full remediation of all the inherited wells. BLM is continuing to work with the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and other stakeholders to prioritize which wells to clean up first, based on risks to human health and the environment, and to address technical concerns for each well.
Of the 50 legacy wells requiring remediation, three have already been cleaned up and an additional 18 will be addressed by the third-party reclamation contractors, Marsh Creek and Olgoonik. BLM estimates that 29 legacy wells will remain after the Helium Act funding is spent. New funds will be needed to clean up these remaining wells, either through additional appropriations from Congress or alternative funding sources.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation.The BLM has a total workforce of over 10,000 employees.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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