Our Seventh Annual Review of Interior's Methodology for Allowing OCS Wells To Be Shut In or To Flare Natural Gas

Gao ID: RCED-85-161 September 30, 1985

Pursuant to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, GAO presented its seventh annual review of the Department of the Interior's methodology for allowing offshore oil and gas wells to be suspended from production or to burn off natural gas.

GAO found that Interior requires operators to report monthly on the status of shut-in wells, including the reason the well is shut in and the anticipated commencement date for restoration. Interior's Minerals Management Service verifies the status through onsite platform checks and review of platform records. According to Interior's report, the amount of gas flared in fiscal year (FY) 1984 decreased from that flared during FY 1983. GAO believes that Interior's methodology for allowing oil and gas wells to be shut in or to flare natural gas is reasonable and continues to support previous recommendations that Congress repeal sections of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act which would abolish requirements that Interior annually report on such practices and that GAO annually evaluate Interior's methodology. Eliminating Interior's reporting requirement would not diminish its responsibility for administering mineral exploration and development and conserving the natural resources of the Outer Continental Shelf.

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