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WEST VIRGINIA CODE
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WVC 22 - 6 - 24 §22-6-24. Methods of plugging well.

Upon the abandonment or cessation of the operation of any well drilled for natural gas or petroleum, or drilled or converted for the introduction of pressure, whether liquid or gas, or for the introduction of liquid for the purposes provided for in section twenty-five of this article or for the disposal of pollutants or the effluent therefrom the well operator, at the time of such abandonment or cessation, shall fill and plug the well in the following manner:

(a) Where the well does not penetrate workable coal beds, it shall either be filled with mud, clay or other nonporous material from the bottom of the well to a point twenty feet above the top of its lowest oil, gas or water-bearing stratum; or a permanent bridge shall be anchored thirty feet below its lowest oil, gas or water-bearing stratum, and from such bridge it shall be filled with mud, clay or other nonporous material to a point twenty feet above such stratum; at this point there shall be placed a plug of cement or other suitable material which will completely seal the hole. Between this sealing plug and a point twenty feet above the next higher oil, gas or water-bearing stratum, the hole shall be filled, in the manner just described; and at such point there shall be placed another plug of cement or other suitable material which will completely seal the hole. In like manner the hole shall be filled and plugged, with reference to each of its oil, gas or water-bearing strata. However, whenever such strata are not widely separated and are free from water, they may be grouped and treated as a single sand, gas or petroleum horizon, and the aforesaid filling and plugging be performed as though there were but one horizon. After the plugging of all oil, gas or water-bearing strata, as aforesaid, a final cement plug shall be placed approximately ten feet below the bottom of the largest casing in the well; from this point to the surface the well shall be filled with mud, clay or other nonporous material. In case any of the oil or gas-bearing strata in a well shall have been shot, thereby creating cavities which cannot readily be filled in the manner above described, the well operator shall follow either of the following methods:

(1) Should the stratum which has been shot be the lowest one in the well, there shall be placed, at the nearest suitable point, but not less than twenty feet above the stratum, a plug of cement or other suitable material which will completely seal the hole. In the event, however, that the shooting has been done above one or more oil or gas-bearing strata in the well, plugging in the manner specified shall be done at the nearest suitable point, but not less than twenty feet below and above the stratum shot; or

(2) When such cavity shall be in the lowest oil or gas-bearing stratum in the well, a liner shall be placed which shall extend from below the stratum to a suitable point, but not less than twenty feet above the stratum in which shooting has been done. In the event, however, that the shooting has been done above one or more oil or gas-bearing strata in the well, the liner shall be so placed that it will extend not less than twenty feet above, nor less than twenty feet below, the stratum in which shooting has been done. Following the placing of the liner in the manner here specified it shall be compactly filled with cement, mud, clay or other nonporous sealing material.

(b) Where the well penetrates one or more workable coal beds and a coal protection string of casing has been circulated and cemented into the surface, the well shall be filled and securely plugged in the manner provided in subsection (a) of this section, except that expanding cement shall be used instead of regular hydraulic cement, to a point approximately one hundred feet below the bottom of the coal protection string of casing. A one hundred foot plug of expanding cement shall then be placed in the well so that the top of such plug is located at a point just below the coal protection string of casing. After such plug has been securely placed in the well, the coal protection string of casing shall be emptied of liquid from the surface to a point one hundred feet below the lowest workable coal bed or to the bottom of the coal protection string of casing, whichever is shallower. A vent or other device approved by the director shall then be installed on the top of the coal protection string of casing in such a manner that will prevent liquids and solids from entering the well but will permit ready access to the full internal diameter of the coal protection string of casing when required. The coal protection string of casing and the vent or other device approved by the director shall extend, when finally in place, a distance of not less than thirty inches above ground level and shall be permanently marked with the well number assigned by the director;

(c) Where the well penetrates one or more workable coal beds and a coal protection string of casing has not been circulated and cemented in to the surface, the well shall be filled and securely plugged in the manner provided in subsection (a) of this section to a point fifty feet below the lowest workable coal bed. Thereafter, a plug of cement shall be placed in the well at a point not less than forty feet below the lowest workable coal bed. After the cement plug has been securely placed in the well, the well shall be filled with cement to a point twenty feet above the lowest workable coal bed. From this point the well shall be filled with mud, clay or other nonporous material to a point forty feet beneath the next overlying workable coal bed, if such there be, and the well shall then be filled with cement from this point to a point twenty feet above such workable coal bed, and similarly, in case there are more overlying workable coal beds. After the filling and plugging of the well to a point above the highest workable coal bed, filling and plugging of the well shall continue in the manner provided in subsection (a) of this section to a point fifty feet below the surface, and a plug of cement shall be installed from the point fifty feet below the surface to the surface with a monument installed therein extending thirty inches above ground level;

(d) (1) Where the well penetrates one or more workable coal beds and a coal protection string of casing has not been circulated and cemented in to the surface, a coal operator or coal seam owner may request that the well be plugged in the manner provided in subdivision (3) of this subsection rather than by the method provided in subsection (c) of this section. Such request (forms for which shall be provided by the director) must be filed in writing with the director prior to the scheduled plugging of the well, and must include the number of the well to be plugged and the name and address of the well operator. At the time such request is filed with the director, a copy of such request must also be mailed by registered or certified mail to the well operator named in the request.

(2) Upon receipt of such request, the director shall issue an order staying the plugging of the well and shall promptly determine the cost of plugging the well in the manner provided in subdivision (3) of this subsection and the cost of plugging the well in the manner provided in subsection (c) of this section. In making such determination, the director shall take into consideration any agreement previously made between the well operator and the coal operator or coal seam owner making the request. If the director determines that the cost of plugging the well in the manner provided in subsection (c) of this section exceeds the cost of plugging the well in the manner provided in subdivision (3) of this subsection, the director shall grant the request of the coal operator or owner and shall issue an order requiring the well operator to plug the well in the manner provided in subdivision (3) of this subsection. If the director determines that the cost of plugging the well in the manner provided in subsection (c) of this section is less than the cost of plugging the well in the manner provided in subdivision (3) of this subsection, the director shall request payment into escrow of the difference between the determined costs by the coal operator or coal seam owner making the request. Upon receipt of satisfactory notice of such payment, or upon receipt of notice that the well operator has waived such payment, the director shall grant the request of the coal operator or coal seam ownerand shall issue an order requiring the well operator to plug the well in the manner provided in subdivision (3) of this subsection. If satisfactory notice of payment into escrow, or notice that the well operator has waived such payment, is not received by the director within fifteen days after the request for payment into escrow, the director shall issue an order permitting the plugging of the well in the manner provided in subsection (c) of this section. Copies of all orders issued by the director shall be sent by registered or certified mail to the coal operator or coal seam owner making the request and to the well operator. When the escrow agent has received certification from the director of the satisfactory completion of the plugging work and the reimbursable extra cost thereof (that is, the difference between the director's determination of plugging cost in the manner provided in subsection (c) of this section and the well operator's actual plugging cost in the manner provided in subdivision (3) of this subsection), the escrow agent shall pay the reimbursable sum to the well operator or the well operator's nominee from the payment into escrow to the extent available. The amount by which the payment into escrow exceeds the reimbursable sum plus the escrow agent's fee, if any, shall be repaid to the coal owner. If the amount paid to the well operator or the well operator's nominee is less than the actual reimbursable sum, the escrow agent shall inform the coal owner, who shall pay the deficiency to the well operator or the well operator's nominee within thirty days. If the coal operator breaches this duty to pay the deficiency, the well operator shall have a right of action and be entitled to recover damages as if for wrongful conversion of personalty, and reasonable attorney fees.

(3) Where a request of a coal operator or coal seam owner filed pursuant to subdivision (1) of this subsection has been granted by the director, the well shall be plugged in the manner provided in subsection (a) of this section, except that expanding cement shall be used instead of regular hydraulic cement, to a point approximately two hundred feet below the lowest workable coal bed. A one hundred foot plug of expanding cement shall then be placed in the well beginning at the point approximately two hundred feet below the lowest workable coal bed and extending to a point approximately one hundred feet below the lowest workable coal bed. A string of casing with an outside diameter no less than four and one-half inches shall then be run into the well to a point approximately one hundred feet below the lowest workable coal bed and such string of casing shall be circulated and cemented in to the surface. The casing shall then be emptied of liquid from a point approximately one hundred feet below the lowest workable coal bed to the surface, and a vent or other device approved by the director shall be installed on the top of the string of casing in such a manner that it will prevent liquids and solids from entering the well but will permit ready access to the full internal diameter of the coal protection string of casing when required. The string of casing and the vent or other device approved by the director shall extend, when finally in place, a distance of no less than thirty inches above ground level and shall be permanently marked with the well number assigned by the director. Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this subdivision, if under particular circumstances a different method of plugging is required to obtain the approval of another governmental agency for the safe mining through of said well, the director may approve such different method of plugging if the director finds the same to be as safe for mining through and otherwise adequate to prevent gas or other fluid migration from the oil and gas reservoirs as the method above specified.

(e) Any person may apply to the director for an order to clean out and replug a previously plugged well in a manner which will permit the safe mining through of such well. Such application shall be filed with the director and shall contain the well number, a general description of the well location, thename and address of the owner of the surface land upon which the well is located, a copy of or record reference to a deed, lease or other document which entitles the applicant to enter upon the surface land, a description of the methods by which the well was previously plugged, and a description of the method by which such applicant proposes to clean out and replug the well. At the time an application is filed with the director, a copy shall be mailed by registered or certified mail to the owner or owners of the land, and the oil and gas lessee of record, if any, of the site upon which the well is located. If no objection to the replugging of the well is filed by any such landowner or oil and gas lessee within thirty days after the filing of the application, and if the director determines that the method proposed for replugging the well will permit the safe mining through of such well, the director shall grant the application by an order authorizing the replugging of the well. Such order shall specify the method by which the well shall be replugged, and copies thereof shall be mailed by certified or registered mail to the applicant and to the owner or owners of the land, and the oil and gas lessee, if any, of the site upon which such well is located. If any such landowner or oil and gas lessee objects to the replugging of the well, the director shall notify the applicant of such objection. Thereafter, the director shall schedule a hearing to consider the objection, which hearing shall be held after notice by registered or certified mail to the objectors and the applicant. After consideration of the evidence presented at the hearing, the director shall issue an order authorizing the replugging of the well if the director determines that replugging of the well will permit the safe mining through of such well. Such order shall specify the manner in which the well shall be replugged and copies thereof shall be sent by registered or certified mail to the applicant and objectors. The director shall issue an order rejecting the application if the director determines that the proposed method for replugging the well will not permit the safe mining through of such well;

(f) All persons adversely affected, by a determination or order of the director issued pursuant to the provisions of this section shall be entitled to judicial review in accordance with the provisions of articles five and six, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code.

Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2013 1st Special Session
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