There is a well on my property

There is a well on my property and I want it plugged! Who owns it?

Wells that are in compliance with Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Oil and Gas regulations are in a database maintained by ODNR that includes Well Owner  information.

ODNR was created in the early 1950's and the Division of Oil and Gas in the 1960's. The first well drilled in Ohio was in 1860. ODNR has made every effort to identify all oil and gas wells in Ohio. However, wells drilled before ODNR existed may not have well permitting or well plugging information in the ODNR Well Database

Have you tried to find the well in ODNR's databases?

Almost every well drilled in Ohio since the early 1950's is in the ODNR well database

How do I find out the well information that is in ODNR's databases?
Has a Well Inspector from ODNR visited the site?

There may be field inspection reports on the well in the ODNR database.

Is there any signage at the wellhead, tank battery or lease road?

ODNR requires a well identification sign at the wellhead and at the tank battery.  Proper signage includes contact information for the Well Owner.

Can there be more than one well on my property?

Yes.

Are you (or anyone) receiving royalty checks from the well?

If yes, then there is an oil and gas company that is operating the well and selling oil and gas.  That oil and gas company likely has leased and now owns the oil and gas minerals under the surface property.

How large is the drilling unit (acres) for the well?

A map of the drilling unit that contains the well may be in the ODNR well database.  Sometimes it is called a well survey and sometimes it is called a well plat.  It is one of the requirements to be included with the drilling permit application.

Do you own all of the acreage in the drilling unit?

The well plat map should indicate the number of acres in the drilling unit that are from each oil and gas lease.

Is the well providing “free” gas to you or anyone else?

If yes, then they may object to the plugging of the well that provides the “free” gas.

Do you own the minerals under your land (oil & gas, coal)?

This information should be included on the property deed.  If the property was conveyed “Fee Simple”, then the oil and gas mineral interests were also conveyed to the new owner.  However, not all properties are purchased Fee Simple, and sometimes the mineral interests are reserved (retained) by the Seller and not transferred to the Buyer.

Are there any leases on the land (oil & gas, coal)?

Valid oil and gas leases are recorded in the Ohio County where the property is located.  Most counties allow internet searches of their Oil & Gas Lease Records.

Do you have a real estate title opinion for your property?

Mineral leases (oil & gas, coal) may be called out in the title opinion but are often overlooked.

What happens to the underlying oil and gas lease(s) when a well is plugged?

Most oil and gas leases terminate one year after the last well is plugged and abandoned.  However, the precise language in the oil and gas lease is what counts.

How long can a well be left when it is no longer producing oil or gas?

Wells can be shut in for one year before ODNR expects production to resume or the well to be plugged.  Alternately, the Well Owner can apply to ODNR to place a shut in well in an “inactive” status for up to three years.

The well on my property appears to be abandoned.  Is that allowed?

There is a difference between shut in and abandoned.  A well that is shut in by the well operator should be inspected periodically for safety reasons.  It is illegal to abandon a well, but at year end 2019, ODNR has qualified 959 abandoned wells for eventual plugging under the Orphan Well Plugging Program.

In theory, there is a surety bond for every well in Ohio that is maintained by the Well Owner.  However, over time, some well owners have gone bankrupt.  And, some well owners would rather forfeit their well bond, which can be less than the cost of plugging the well, than properly plug and abandon the well.

I have done my research & I think that there is an abandoned well on the land that I own.  What can I do next?

You should write to ODNR’s Orphan Well Program at 2207 Reiser Avenue SE, New Philadelphia, Ohio 44663-3333, identifying the location of your property, any information on the well that your research uncovered, and photographs of the well.  ODNR will inspect the well within 30 days of the receipt of your written notification, and will begin its own research into the well and who owns the well (and the responsibility to plug the well).  ODNR will research public records going back for 40 years.  If ODNR determines that there is no responsible well owner to plug the well, then ODNR will enter the well into the inventory of orphan wells.  There is no charge for this service by ODNR, however, ODNR does not excavate in search of an abandoned well.

I think there may be a well on my property that was already plugged.  How can I find out for sure?

Wells plugged in the last 50 years should have a 1/2” steel identification plate welded to the top of the surface casing; however, this may be buried and not visible.  Checking for plugged wells on the ODNR well database is a good way to look for any plugged wells on the property.  However, make sure when searching the ODNR database that the layer for “plugged and abandoned wells” is included.  Usually a plugged well is identified on the well location maps with a strike through the well symbol.

Can the well on my property be moved?

The well bore is a hole drilled through rock that can be 5,000' deep.  No, it cannot be moved.  The tank battery may be able to be relocated.  However, it is an expensive project, perhaps $10,000 or more.  So, the real question is, "who is going to pay to move the tank battery?"  Usually there is not enough oil and gas remaining in the producing formation to justify the expense of relocating the surface equipment.

Is a well dangerous?

A well that is operated in compliance with ODNR regulations should be safe.  Wells located in urban areas have stronger requirements than wells in rural areas.  Most modern wells and tank batteries are fenced and safety warning signs are required.  In addition to well owner information there is often a warning sign: “No Smoking; No Open Flames”.

Wells that are properly maintained are much safer than wells that are neglected.  Unrepaired deterioration of a well can lead to mechanical failures.  And, any well can be damaged by vandals or nature (falling trees, lightening).

Are oil and gas dangerous?

They can be if not properly contained or stored.  Both are flammable.  The tank placard for “Petroleum Crude Oil” rates “Reactivity” as “0” (stable) on a 0 to 5 scale; “Health Hazard” as “1” (slightly hazardous) on a 0 to 4 scale; and “Fire Hazard” as “3” (flash point below 100 degrees F.) on a 0 to 4 scale.  The Ohio Department of Natural Resources requires Material Safety Data Sheets on crude oil and natural gas to be on site when ODNR is paying for a plug job.

Can I buy the well?

In theory, yes, if the Well Owner(s) will sell it.  However, there are legal requirements set forth by ODNR that must be met before you can become a Well Owner.  There is a $5,000 surety bond for one well and a general liability insurance policy of at least $1,000,000.  In addition, the Well Owner must report oil and gas production quarterly and pay severance taxes to the Ohio.  The Well Owner is also responsible for making royalty payments from oil and gas sold.  Most importantly, as the Well Owner, you are responsible for plugging the well when that time comes.

Should I take over the well to heat my house (natural gas for domestic use)?

Probably not.  Lack of production is usually the reason that the well is a candidate to be plugged.  And, gas from a well has not been odorized with isopropyl mercaptan (rotten egg smell) whereas gas from a gas utility has been odorized.

 

Unless you know how to operate a well yourself, a Well Tender (Pumper) may have to be hired to service the well and assure safe operations.

What about the entranceway that was made to access the well site?

It is up to the surface landowner to decide whether they want the entrance way removed or left in place.  However, once the well is plugged, the well operator will no longer maintain the entranceway or the lease road.

Can the well be made profitable again?

Probably not. But, if oil and gas prices double or triple, then maybe yes.

 

If oil or gas has been produced from the well, then some, and perhaps all, of the recoverable oil and gas reserves have been withdrawn.  This is called “depletion.”  Wells start off strong but production slows down as the reservoir becomes depleted and formation pressure decreases.

 

Well operating costs are about the same from year to year on older wells.  As oil and gas production (and revenue) declines, the well eventually becomes unprofitable.

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