Oklahoma's oldest oil fields are cleaner this week as the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board celebrated its 13,000th abandoned oil field site restoration.
Backed by voluntary funds collected from the state's oil and natural gas producers, the OERB has spent more than $80 million on abandoned site cleanups since the program began in 1993.
“The oil and gas industry is taking responsibility and cleaning this up voluntarily,” OERB spokeswoman Jill Harrison said. “A lot of times these sites are on land that is being used. This particular site is on public land used for hunting and fishing. This is something very positive for the entire state.”
Increased drilling and higher oil and natural gas prices have boosted the OERB's budget, allowing it to pick up the cleanup pace.
The group has spent more than $5.4 million this year on its cleanup effort and is now completing about 1,000 sites each year, or almost three a day.
But the effort is far from over.
OERB estimates that there are still 20,000 to 40,000 abandoned oil field sites throughout the state.
“There's still a lot more to be cleaned up,” Harrison said. “We're getting requests every day.”
Cleanup requests are sent in by landowners, companies, regulators and others.
OERB staff also have used satellite images to locate sites for cleanup.
When a site is identified, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission researches the site to determine if the responsible party is still around. Most of the abandoned sites are decades old and were drilled by companies that no longer exist.
If a responsible party is found, that company or group is contacted. If the responsible party is no longer in business, the OERB takes over and funds the cleanup.
For more information on the cleanup project or to report an abandoned oil field site, visit oerb.com/restoration.