Create Jobs for Oil/Gas Workers, Plugging Oil and Gas Wells

April 5, 2021

Across the country there are hundreds of thousands of abandoned or “orphan” frack wells.

There are also, tens of thousands of unemployed oil and gas workers.
Putting them to work, plugging old, leaking, toxic and climatically harmful wells, in their own state and community, makes sense, and is a win-win.

It’s not just a good idea, it’s been happening in some places.

News report from KXMB in Bismark, North Dakota, above, and below, relates how this started with funding from the first Covid relief bill.
The planned Infrastructure bill would continue that process.
Below, my video explaining how this has been a through line for the Biden combined Infrastructure/Climate plan.

KXMB Bismark:

North Dakota’s top oil and gas experts came together again on Wednesday for a continued discussion about how to make about 6,200 wells still idle, due in large part to the coronavirus, profitable once again.

Some say it’s time to take care of the land these wells are sitting on, and others say it’s time to put people back to work.

“I think what is the blessing of this moment is that we have federal funds to have a very substantial beginning of a task that’s been overdue,” shared Fintan Dooley, with the Salt Contaminated Land & Water Council.

He’s talking about reclamation.

“In several decades of doing this, I haven’t seen this much, I would say, enthusiasm, from a standpoint of they need the assistance. They need the help,” added Ron Ness, President of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

Oil and Gas experts heard testimony from about 35 oil operators, small well owners, soil scientists and landowners.

This comes after the Department of Mineral Resources, led by Lynn Helms, published a list of 368 abandoned and orphaned wells, that the Industrial Commission will consider spending $33-million in CARES Act money to plug up for good.

The money was approved in May to plug and reclaim these wells that Helms say are no longer profitable, even if brought back into production.

“Roughly 550 service company employees are going to be put to work as their PPP expires. And probably 600 people put to work doing the reclamation, which is the second phase of this. So all-in-all, well over 1,000 jobs are going to be created,” the Dept. of Mineral Resources Director explained.

The New Republic:

In the past year, tumult in the oil industry has led to a rash of bankruptcies, consolidations, and layoffs. While the price of oil is starting to rebound, a study released by Deloitte last fall found that some 70 percent of the 107,000 jobs lost between March and August 2020 may not return, and those that do are likely to be weighted toward white-collar office work. Across mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction—a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics category that also includes support services—unemployment now stands at 15 percent. As of last month, the sector had the highest sectoral rate of unemployment in the country.

Executives, contrary to lobbyists’ portrayal of the industry as generous job creators, are eager to let automation take its course, accelerating those trends. In March, at CERAWeek—an annual conference for the oil and gas industry—Chevron CEO Mike Wirth excitedly described how Covid-19 had accelerated the company’s workforce shrinkage. “We had directional drilling going on in people’s homes, where just a couple of years ago we had to have somebody on a rig that was controlling the drill bit. That had been moved to a drilling support center centralized in Houston, and we were able to quickly move that actually to individual employees’ homes,” he said. “There’s been a great acceleration of technologies that had begun to be available to our business, but there was perhaps a bit of reluctance to see them accelerate into use. And now we had no choice.… That will be one of the lasting impacts that I think will be very positive.”

Fossil fuel companies are generally happy to take federal money and lay off employees anyway. study from Bailout Watch finds that 77 oil and gas companies that got a total of $8.2 billion worth of stimulus-related tax breaks last year laid off 16 percent of their combined workforce, totaling 58,000 people. Marathon Petroleum—which raked in $2.1 billion in pandemic tax breaks—got approximately $1 million for each of the 1,920 workers it laid off. As was predicted to happen at the start of the pandemic, bigger producers with more resilient balance sheets are snapping up shakier competitors. In the year’s fourth multibillion consolidation, reported by Reuters on Thursday, Pioneer Natural Resources bought the privately held firm DoublePoint Energy for $6.4 billion. But long before the novel coronavirus, his companies had been rapidly automating their operations, contracting with supposedly climate-conscious companies like Microsoft and Amazon to pump out more oil with fewer people via cloud-computing technology. 

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