Minerals Council

Orphan well committee getting little to no help from BIA

TULSA — Despite not having access to data through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Osage Minerals Council’s Orphan Well Committee is nearing its goal of evaluating all of Osage County’s abandoned production sites.

Speaking at the annual Oil and Gas Summit Nov. 13, geologist Bill Lynn and committee chairman Talee Redcorn said the committee has completed “about 70-80 percent” of the grant it received through the BIA’s Division of Energy and Mineral Development to assess the production capabilities of 1,602 orphan wells scattered among 559 leases throughout the Osage Mineral Estate.

With up to 30 percent of the grant’s scope of work still incomplete and the deadline drawing nigh, the committee has applied for a three-month extension.

As of mid-November, the committee has at least partially evaluated all of the wells on the provided list, including 25 that were already plugged and 27 more that were duplicates.

To date, field inspections have been conducted on 172 wells, including 19 that appear to have production capabilities secondary recovery efforts. Six more appear to be candidates to resume production using enhanced recovery techniques, such as the carbon dioxide flooding techniques currently used by Perdure in the Burbank field.

Although the Osage Agency did provide a list of orphan wells to the committee, most of its contents, including the wells’ depths and previous operators, were redacted under claims of trade secrets.

“The BIA won’t even look at the computer and tell us whether these wells are active,” Lynn said.

Further compounding the data problem is the fact that the existing records do not include whether a site has been subjected to primary, secondary or tertiary oil recovery techniques.

Primary recovery relies on a reservoir’s natural pressure to force the oil to the surface. Secondary recovery incorporates water or gas injection to force oil to a wellhead. Tertiary recovery, also known as enhanced recovery, brings in thermal, chemical or gas injection to the mix. Although the latter can extend an oil field’s economic viability by up to 60 percent, the upfront costs are substantially higher and do not yield uniformly effective results.

“We don’t have any opportunities where we can just flip a switch and make a profit,” Lynn said. “With existing standard leasing process, no opportunities so far. With a different management process though, there may be an opportunity.”

“These producers walked away for a reason.”