ODNR Orphan Well Program


What led to this audit?

Ohio has tens of thousands of orphaned oil and gas wells that were abandoned more than 50 years ago. These wells pose an environmental and health hazard as they may leak dangerous fumes and other toxic materials. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is tasked with identifying, locating, and plugging these wells using funds collected from the taxes and fees assessed on the oil and gas industry in Ohio.

While the Department has significantly increased the number of wells that are plugged on an annual basis, it has routinely failed to plug enough wells to meet the statutory spending requirement, meaning that the amount of funding reserved for this process continues to increase and sit unused. We initiated the audit to determine how ODNR could improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Orphan Well Program.

What did we find?

Of the estimated 36,000 orphaned wells in Ohio, the Department maintains a limited database with an inventory of 1,000 wells. This data is incomplete and, in some cases, out of date. By improving the quality of data collected, the Department will be able to better manage the Orphan Well Program and improve the efficiency by which wells are plugged. Additionally, recent changes to state law should assist the Department in these endeavors and allow it to expend funds needed to find, prep, and plug more wells.