Interior Lacks Adequate Oversight of Shut-In or Flaring Natural Gas Wells on the Outer Continental Shelf

EMD-80-3: Published: Nov 21, 1979. Publicly Released: Nov 21, 1979.

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A review was made of the methodology used by the Department of Interior to allow Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) wells to be shut-in (not producing) or to flare (burn off) natural gas.

Deficiencies were found in Interior's methods and in the completeness and accuracy of its first report to GAO.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the U.S. Geological Survey to begin: (1) testing reports of shut-in well completions by OCS operators to ensure the reasonableness of the data supporting the shut-in and its conformity with departmental objectives; (2) testing approved long-term flarings to ensure that the flaring conducted is for only those amounts and periods permitted by the statute and revised regulations; (3) testing reports of short-term (emergency) flaring for excessive flaring; and (4) implementing a follow-up program to verify that the operator has initiated the corrective work needed to restore a shut-in well as and when planned, and that the approved flaring of natural gas ceased when scheduled or an extension, where justified, was issued. The Secretary should improve his report and make it a more useful document by including the following: (1) a statement of the Interior method used to allow OCS wells to be shut-in and to flare natural gas; (2) a listing of all wells, well completions, and wellbores with production potential and state whether production will be required by Interior and when the production can be expected; (3) a listing of each well completion flaring natural gas under an approval and indicate whether the cessation of the flaring is ordered by Interior and when the cessation order will take effect; and (4) the date of all oil or gas production from a shut-in well.

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