Mapping the legacy of drilling in a protected monument

Mar 13, 2020

As companies struggle, abandoned wells leave a mark on Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

According to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument contains 193 oil and gas wells and drilling sites. Many of these wells have been “abandoned” or “shut-in” and not properly reclaimed. As a result, the monument is littered with decaying oil and gas equipment that companies have failed to clean up.


Abandoned wells

124 of the well sites are no longer active and have been abandoned by the companies that drilled the wells. These wells have been plugged and closed, but many have not been fully reclaimed, often leaving behind pipelines, unused access roads, well pad debris, and discarded drilling equipment.

Shut In wells

The monument contains a total of 16 shut in wells. These wells are able to produce oil or gas but have been temporarily closed for various reasons, primarily when production won’t turn a profit. Notably, they have not been properly plugged and reclaimed. Four of these shut in wells are owned by companies that are now bankrupt or have lost their license to operate due to violations. These wells pose an increased risk to the surrounding environment, and ultimately, the cost to reclaim these sites could fall on taxpayers.