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North Dakota DMR begins well reclamation

Published: Aug. 17, 2020 at 5:08 PM CDT
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BOTTINEAU COUNTY, N.D. - The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources is in the second phase of a three-part plan to reclaim more than 400 orphan wells and restore the land around them.

The DMR is using CARES act funding for the project.

Your News Leader headed to one of 14 active well plugging sites where work is being done.

For local farmers in the Bottineau area, this is the sound of progress.

“Those areas we’re hoping to get cleaned up and reclaimed put back into production agriculture,” said Ryan Henry, a landowner and farmer in Bottineau County.

Henry has lost 70 acres of land to brine spots in his area, but after allowing the state to test reclamation processes, which are now being put into practice, he hopes to get some of that land back.

“I realize it’s going to be a potentially five to seven year process before they get them all done but it’s not just going to benefit our farm, it’s going to benefit several of my neighbors farms as well,” said Henry.

The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources is putting $66 million in CARES Act funding to the project. They say they plan to employ service companies in the oil and gas sector, who according to the state were hit hardest by unemployment due COVID-19.

The plugging phase will require at least 600 workers over the next six months.

“We’re estimating around 400 people so far for this project and we’re just on the first package, so we’re going to get these future packages coming along and get a lot more people working in,” said Jean Datahan, Neset Consulting Operations Engineer.

Site reclamation will include extended testing and is expected to go into 2021.

“Thirty or 40% of these well sites are going to have contamination that’s going to require some extended remediation. So we’ll stabilize the site, wrote a remediation plan and then spend money on that next year,” said Lynn Helms, DMR Director.

Helms said they hope to have 60 to 70% of the reclamation sites completed by December 30.

Helms said more than 2,000 acres of fully reclaimed land will be returned to North Dakota surface owners for farming, grazing, or personal use when the project is completed.

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