Finding And Identifying Oil And Gas Wells
Attention Hikers, Hunters, and Landowners: If you believe you have found an abandoned well, please see What to do if You Locate an Abandoned Well.
Where Wells Are Located
Most oil and gas wells in New York are located in the western part of the state, with the majority located in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Erie Counties. They can be found in a variety of locations, including forests, fields, and residential areas. DEC maintains records for approximately 23,000 unplugged wells.
What Oil and Gas Wells Look Like
Oil Well - You may see a wellhead, metal casing, a pumpjack, oil and/or brine tanks, and pipes/fittings.
Gas Well - You may see a wellhead, metal casing, separator, brine tank, and pipes/fittings.
Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells
Abandoned wells are unplugged wells that have not been operated and maintained in compliance with oil and gas laws, rules and regulations. Many abandoned wells have fallen into advanced states of disrepair. DEC's Oil and Gas Database contains records of approximately 2,400 confirmed abandoned wells. Previously undocumented wells may be discovered by DEC, landowners and other members of the public at which time they are added to DEC's database.
The following may indicate that a well is abandoned:
- No visible well sign or other form of identification;
- Debris or overgrown vegetation around the well;
- Well and surrounding production equipment in poor condition;
- Equipment missing from the well or wellsite; and/or
- Brine, oil, or gas leaks.
To further protect the environment, DEC and NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) announced a new drone-based initiative in late 2020 to address climate change by locating abandoned oil and gas wells. The drone technology and precision equipment will help locate abandoned wells that may be emitting methane into the atmosphere and can be prioritized for well plugging. This will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and aid in achieving New York's Climate Act goals. Read more about finding and identifying oil and gas wells.
Additional information about abandoned wells and DEC's orphaned and abandoned well plugging program can be found on the Orphaned and Abandoned Well Plugging webpage.
What to do if You Locate an Abandoned Well
If you find what you think is an abandoned well:
- Do Not Touch the Well!
- Read our Safety Tips for Landowners
- Take photos from a safe distance (~35 feet or more from the well)
- Note the location or obtain GPS coordinates from a safe distance (~35 feet or more from the well)
- Contact the appropriate Division of Mineral Resources regional office