Interior requires permanent plugs for unused offshore oil-and-gas wells

Michael Bromwich, the director of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said the requirement to plug and dismantle “idle iron” would improve safety.

“As infrastructure continues to age, the risk of damage increases. That risk increases substantially during storm season. This initiative is the product of careful thought and analysis and requires that these wells, platforms and pipelines are plugged and dismantled correctly and in a timely manner to substantially reduce such hazards,” he said in a statement.

Interior claims that oil companies have historically not wanted to give up wells, platforms and pipelines, arguing they add value to leases or could support other projects in the same lease area.

“They were, therefore, reluctant to plug the wells and remove the infrastructure until they met the final decommissioning regulatory requirement which is within one year after the lease expires or terminates — sometimes years after the infrastructure has been out of use,” Interior said in describing the rationale behind the new mandate.

Companies will have 120 days to submit decommissioning plans.