Texas defines orphaned wells as inactive*, non-compliant wells that have been inactive for 12+ months, and the responsible operator's Organizational Report has been delinquent for 12+ months. 

*Inactive = an unplugged well that has had no reported production, disposal, injection, or other permitted activity for 12+ months


How to decarbonize oil and gas operations by plugging orphan and idle wells

According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), 129,000+ abandoned oil and gas wells are “orphans” in the US. The actual number is estimated to be much higher. As these wells have no solvent owner of record, the cleanup liability falls on the states, federal agencies or Tribe; and often pose significant risks by leaking oil and other toxic chemicals, endangering water wells and contributing to air pollution, and emit methane. Orphan wells also impact local economies by decreasing property values, which lowers funding for public services.

Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the Department of the Interior received US$4.7bn to fund the plugging and clean-up of orphan wells by Federal land management agencies, States, and Tribes. In addition, projects such as the DOE’s Undocumented Orphaned Well Program fund research to help identify, catalog, and classify undocumented orphaned wells. The aim is to create job opportunities, stimulate economic growth, reduce methane leaks, and lay the groundwork for reducing the number of unplugged orphan wells going forward.

Texas is estimated to have 6,489 documented orphan wells and the goal is to plug 800+ of these wells by the end of 2023 through the Railroad Commission of Texas State Managed Plugging Program. In July of this year, the DoI announced over $650 million in BIL funding to plug abandoned oil and gas wells. The potential grant amount for Texas is US $79.6 million.
In addition, Texas has 100,000+ idle and low-producing wells - some of which are at risk of becoming orphan wells in the future in the absence of policy change. It is critical to ensure current and future active wells are timely decommissioned with industry dollars at the end of their useful life. Incentives are now becoming available for measuring and validating the removal of GHG emissions through well plugging to gain carbon credits. This could help operators, contractors, and jurisdictions to identify and prioritize leaking methane as an environmental risk.


Alberto Castelli
Alberto Castelli
International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP)
Senior Manager ‑ Americas Energy Transition
Kimbra Davis
Kimbra Davis
Director, Orphaned Wells Program Office
U.S. Department of the Interior
Nick Gianoutsos
Nick Gianoutsos
Physical Scientist
U.S. Geological Survey
Andrew Govert
Andrew Govert
Methane Mitigation Technologies Division, Office of Resource Sustainability, Office of Fossil Energy Carbon Management, United States Department of Energy
Undocumented Orphan Wells Program Manager
Susan Nash
Susan Nash
Director, Innovation, Science, and Technology
American Association of Petroleum Geologists
Adam Peltz
Adam Peltz
Environmental Defense Fund
Director and Senior Attorney
Curtis Shuck
Curtis Shuck
Well Done Foundation Inc
Tessa Sorensen
Tessa Sorensen
Energy Liaison
Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment
Jim Wright
Jim Wright
Railroad Commission of Texas


  • Understanding the latest updates from the federal and state regulators to ensure your company is compliant
  • Benchmarking well plugging, decommissioning and remediating approaches to improve your company's operations
  • Exploring various approaches to re-purposing low-producing and idle wells to maximize their potential
  • Reviewing the methodologies to quantify methane leakage from low-producing and idle wells to identify and prioritize targets and help advance U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan goals
  • Calculating, validating, and certifying greenhouse gas emissions removal for orphan and idle wells to gain carbon credits
  • Taking a holistic approach to assets to ensure current and future active wells are plugged in a timely approach with industry dollars at the end of their useful life 


  • Regulatory agencies: federal + state
  • Academia
  • Operators
  • Landowners and communities
  • Environmental organizations/associations
  • Contractors and service providers - OFS
  • Well plugging and abandonment contractors
  • Environmental consulting firms
  • Engineering firms
  • Financial assurance providers
  • Technologies - 
    • Downhole tools and technologies (mechanical bridge plugs, cement plugs, and inflatable packers)
    • Materials for well plugging and abandonment (cements, sealants, and grouts)
    • Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs)
    • Laser scanning and imaging technologies
    • Data analytics and predictive modeling
    • Drones, satellites and other technologies carrying magnetometers to identify orphan wells