Plugging and Reclamation
Reclamation helps ensure that the effects of oil and gas development on the land and on other resources and uses are not permanent.
A reclamation plan is included in the surface use plan of operations, which must be approved before any construction can begin. Integrating reclamation into operations in this way is critical to successful reclamation.
Minimizing surface disturbance during construction also eases final reclamation. Partial reclamation of drilling areas must occur during production.
Reclamation must begin as soon as possible after the surface is disturbed and continue until the BLM determines that successful reclamation has been achieved. Interim reclamation of all disturbed areas not needed for active production operations is a best management practice that also reduces costs and increases the effectiveness of final reclamation.
The ultimate objective of reclamation is ecosystem restoration, including restoration of natural vegetation, hydrology, and wildlife habitats. In most cases, this means a condition equal to or closely approximating that which existed before the land was disturbed.
Reclamation must stablize the site in the short term and achieve the visual, hydrological and productivity objectives of the surface management agency. It also must include the steps necessary to ensure that long-term objectives will be reached through natural processes.
Reclamation is successful when a self-sustaining, vigorous, diverse, native plant community is established, with a density that will control erosion and non-native plant invasion, and re-establish wildlife habitat or forage production.
The BLM continues to perform inspections during reclamation. Prior to final reclamation, requirements are reviewed with the operator. (Interim reclamation is inspected and discussed during the operations phase.)
During reclamation and abandonment, inspections ensure that the well is being properly plugged and reclamation is being completed correctly.
Following reclamation, the inspector checks that the site has been properly re-contoured, that topsoil has been returned to disturbed areas, and that proper re-seeding has been done.
The BLM approves a final abandonment notice for the site when it has been re-contoured and is successfully re-vegetated, free of weeds and equipment, and is stable.
The BLM continues to monitor the site over the long term to ensure that it remains stable and that ecosystem function is fully restored.