Missouri is preparing to cap and remove 238 abandoned oil wells, almost all of them in Vernon County.

Chris Wood is the Oil and Gas Unit Chief with the Department of Natural Resources.

“We’ll go through, and we will plug those wells and we will remove all the infrastructure, tanks, and everything from the area, and return the area to its natural state,” Wood told Missourinet.

He said the abandoned wells pose a risk to the environment and that some of them have been leaking, though there is no evidence of groundwater or surface water being affected.

“Some of them are leaking,” Wood said. “They’re leaking a little bit of oil, they’re leaking a little bit of saltwater, so we’re going in to prevent – you know – groundwater contamination and surface water contamination and we’re also restoring the plant life in the area.”

The work is being paid for by a $5.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior and it’s expected to be finished by the end of 2027. It’s actually the first of several phases to remove even more abandoned wells.

“We have approximately 1,900 wells that we’re looking at all throughout Missouri,” Wood said. “And again, a lot of them are along the western border. We’re taking a look at them and we will be going to assess these wells and rank them to put them in their order to start plugging.”

Wood also said Missouri has numerous active wells that have produced more than 13,600 barrels of oil since January of this year. Missouri’s oil wells, both active and abandoned, range generally along the western side of the state, from Vernon County, through the Kansas City area, and up into parts of northern Missouri.

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