Orphan Wells in the Arkansas River

Earlier today, I (Dan Arthur) met up with Tulsa City Councilor Jayme Fowler and Burt Mummolo from Channel 8 News. My two step-sons and I gave Jayme & Burt a tour of a few of the “old” Orphan Oil Wells that still remain in the Arkansas River, just south of downtown Tulsa. We don’t have records, but I’m estimating that all of these wells were drilled before 1920. Thus far, I’ve identified about 50 old wells that are either in the river or on the banks of the river, but today we just looked at a handful for the story. 

I should note that these wells are in plain site and not only are these old wells still around, there is a lot of other associated materials remaining that is also in the river (e.g., flow lines, casing heads, corroded casing, etc.). Two of the wells we visited today were leaking methane to the surface and one was oil filled (and also had methane bubbling up). 

My hope is that showing these historical legacies from the former “Oil Capital of the World” will serve to prioritize getting these wells permanently plugged and abandoned. There is currently over $4 Billion in federal funding available for plugging these types of wells throughout the United States, but there are a “LOT” of wells across the country to plug!!! Fortunately, here in Oklahoma, we have a State Idle & Orphan well plugging fund, which helps, but it’s not enough. There are also some new private sector incentives (such as carbon credits for eliminating methane emissions that I’m working diligently on). 

Obviously, there are other industry and charitable sources of funding, but plugging a well in the middle of a river isn’t necessarily an easy deal nor inexpensive, especially when you look at all the things that are associated (e.g., pipe, hydrocarbons, etc.). I’ve also included a couple historic post cards in case anyone doesn’t understand that we actually did drill wells “IN” the River.

Take a look at the Channel 8 News story

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