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Alaska Well Abandonment Process (20-AK-a)

This flowchart illustrates the process for abandoning wells in the state of Alaska. The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission ("commission") oversees the well abandonment process. Under the Alaska Admin. Code tit. 20, § 25.105, all wells that have been permitted on property must be abandoned before expiration of the owner’s rights in that property or if, after notice and hearing, the commission orders abandonment for safety reasons or because the operator has effectively abandoned operations prior to the expiration of the lease.


Well Abandonment Process Process

20-AK-a.1 – Application for Sundry Approvals

Developer must submit an Application for Sundry Approvals (Form 10-403) to the commission. The application must be approved by the commission before work can begin on abandoning the well. However, oral approval may be obtained from the commission to begin abandonment if it is followed within 3 days by submitting an application.

Developer must include in their application:

  • The reason for abandoning the well; and
  • A statement of proposed work.

20-AK-a.2 – Does the Commission Approve?

The commission will then approve or deny the request for abandonment. The commission may attach conditions to its approval of the application as necessary to protect freshwater and hydrocarbon resources.

20-AK-a.3 – Notify Commission of Plugging Operations

Developer must notify the commission that the plugging operations will commence so that a representative of the commission can witness the operations. (20 AAC 25.112(h)).

20-AK-a.4 – Conduct Plugging or Abandonment Operation

Plugging of an uncased portion of a wellbore must be performed in a manner that ensures that all hydrocarbons and freshwater are confined and prevented from migrating. The Alaska Administrative Code outlines the specific requirements for plugging a well in Alaska Admin. code tit. 20, § 25.112. However, The commission may vary the plugging procedures at their discretion. A variance from ordinary requirements must provide for at least equally effective plugging of the well and prevention of fluid movement into sources of hydrocarbons or freshwater. (20 AAC 25.112(i).

Plugging of the uncased portion of a wellbore must be performed in a manner that ensures that all hydrocarbons and freshwater are confined to their respective indigenous strata and are prevented from migrating into other strata or to the surface. The minimum requirements for plugging the uncased portion of a wellbore are as follows:

(1) by the displacement method, a cement plug must be placed
(A) from 100 feet below the base to 100 feet above the top of all hydrocarbon-bearing strata;
(B) from the well's total depth to 100 feet above the top of all hydrocarbon-bearing strata;
(C) from the well's plugged back total depth to 100 feet above the top of all hydrocarbon-bearing strata, if all hydrocarbon-bearing, abnormally geo-pressured, and freshwater strata below are isolated; however, the commission will approve plugging from the top of fill or the top of junk instead of from the plugged back total depth, if the commission determines that the objectives of this subsection will be met; or
(D) from 100 feet below the base to 50 feet above the base of each significant hydrocarbon-bearing stratum and from 50 feet below the top to 100 feet above the top of each significant hydrocarbon-bearing stratum;
(2) by the displacement method, a cement plug must be placed from 100 feet below the base to 50 feet above the base of each abnormally geo-pressured stratum and from 50 feet below the top to 100 feet above the top of each abnormally geo-pressured stratum;
(3) by the displacement method, a cement plug must be placed from 150 feet below the base to 50 feet above the base of the deepest freshwater stratum.

Plugging of a well must include effectively segregating uncased and cased portions of the wellbore to prevent vertical movement of fluid within the wellbore. The minimum requirement for plugging to segregate uncased and cased portions of a wellbore is one of the following:

(1) by the displacement method, a continuous cement plug must be placed from 100 feet below to 100 feet above the casing shoe;
(2) by the downsqueeze method using a retainer set no less than 50 feet but no more than 100 feet above the casing shoe, a volume of cement sufficient to fill the wellbore from the retainer to 100 feet below the casing shoe must be pumped through the retainer, and cement must be pumped above the retainer to cap it with a 50 foot cement plug;
(3) by the downsqueeze method using a production packer set no less than 50 feet but no more than 500 feet above the casing shoe, a volume of cement sufficient to fill the wellbore from 100 feet below the casing shoe to the packer must be pumped through the packer, and cement must be pumped above the packer to cap it with a 50 foot cement plug.

Plugging of cased portions of a wellbore must be performed in a manner that ensures that all hydrocarbons and freshwater are confined to their respective indigenous strata and are prevented from migrating into other strata or to the surface. The minimum requirements for plugging cased portions of a wellbore are as follows:

(1) perforated intervals must be plugged by one of the following methods:
(A) by the displacement method, a cement plug placed from 100 feet below the base to 50 feet above the base of the perforated interval and from 50 feet below the top to 100 feet above the top of the perforated interval;
(B) by the displacement method, a cement plug placed from the well's total depth to 100 feet above the top of the perforated interval;
(C) by the displacement method, a cement plug placed from the well's plugged-back total depth to 100 feet above the top of the perforated interval, if all hydrocarbon-bearing, abnormally geo-pressured, and freshwater strata below are isolated; however, the commission will approve plugging from the top of fill or the top of junk instead of from the plugged-back total depth, if the commission determines that the objectives of this subsection will be met;
(D) by the downsqueeze method using a cement retainer or production packer set no less than 50 feet but no more than 500 feet above the perforated interval, a volume of cement pumped through the retainer or packer sufficient to fill the wellbore from 100 feet below the base of the perforated interval to the retainer or packer;
(E) if the perforations are isolated from open hole below, a mechanical bridge plug set no more than 50 feet above the top of the perforated interval, and either a minimum of 75 feet of cement placed on top of the plug by the displacement method or a minimum of 25 feet of cement placed on top of the plug with a dump bailer;
(2) casing stubs within outer casing must be plugged by one of the following methods:
(A) by the displacement method, a cement plug placed from 100 feet below the stub to 100 feet above the stub;
(B) by the downsqueeze method using a retainer set 50 feet above the stub, a volume of cement pumped below the retainer sufficient to fill the casing stub with 150 feet of cement, and cement pumped above the retainer to cap it with a 50 foot cement plug;
(C) if the casing stub annulus is cemented, a mechanical bridge plug set no more than 25 feet above the casing stub, and either a minimum of 75 feet of cement placed on top of the plug by the displacement method or a minimum of 25 feet of cement placed on top of the plug with a dump bailer;
(3) if freshwater is present, the smallest diameter casing string extending to the surface must be plugged by one of the following methods:
(A) by the displacement method, a cement plug placed from 100 feet below the depth of the surface casing shoe to 100 feet above the depth of the shoe;
(B) a mechanical bridge plug set 100 feet below the depth of the surface casing shoe and at least 200 feet of cement placed on top of the plug.

Plugging of the surface of a well must meet the following requirements:

(1) by the displacement method, a cement plug at least 150 feet in length, with the top of the cement no more than five feet below original ground level onshore, or between 10 and 30 feet below the mudline datum offshore, must be placed within the smallest diameter casing string;
(2) either
(A) all annular space open at the surface onshore, or in communication with open hole and extending to the mudline datum offshore, must be plugged with cement to seal the annular space in a manner satisfactory to the commission; or
(B) all casing interior to the surface casing must be recovered to a depth of 100 feet or more below the original ground level onshore or the mudline datum offshore and the casing stubs plugged with cement as provided in (c)(2)(A) of this section; if the cement plug is extended to within the distance from the surface specified in (1) of this subsection, the requirement of (1) of this subsection need not be met.

Cement used for plugging within zones of permafrost must be designed to set before freezing and have a low heat of hydration. Each of the respective intervals of a wellbore between the various plugs must be filled with fluid of sufficient density to exert a hydrostatic pressure exceeding the greatest formation pressure of permeable formations in the intervals between the plugs at the time of abandonment. Except for surface plugs, the operator shall record the actual location and integrity of cement plugs, cement retainers, or bridge plugs required by this section, using one of the following methods, which in the case of a cement retainer or bridge plug may be performed before cement is placed on top of the plug:

(1) placing sufficient weight on the plug to confirm its location and to confirm that the plug has set and a competent plug is in place;
(2) testing the plug to hold a surface pressure of 1,500 psig or 0.25 psi/ft multiplied by the true vertical depth of the casing shoe, whichever is greater, and tagging the plug to confirm location; however, surface pressure may not subject the casing to a hoop stress that will exceed 70 percent of the minimum yield strength of the casing.

At least 24 hours notice of plugging operations must be given to the commission so that a representative of the commission can witness the operations. The commission will, in its discretion, approve a variance from the requirements of this section if the variance provides for at least equally effective plugging of the well and prevention of fluid movement into sources of hydrocarbons or freshwater. (20 AAC 25.112).




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