How Long Does an Oil Well Last?

oil well lifespan

Oil wells come in all shapes and sizes. All across the United States, there are oil wells being built, used, and torn down, and thanks to over 100 years of drilling history, the public now knows a lot about the ins and outs of a typical drilling operation. In this article, we are going to explore the average lifespan of an oil well (and gas well also).

The Average Lifespan of an Oil Well

In general, it is commonly accepted that an oil or gas well can expect to last between 20 and 40 years of significant production. With that said, new technologies are constantly being developed to make oil operations longer and more efficient. If a well is not being tapped at the maximum rate, it may last way longer than average. In fact, there is an active oil well in Pennsylvania that was first drilled over a century ago!

The Different Classifications of an Oil Well (or Gas Well)

When people ask, “How long does an oil well last?” they are typically referring to a well that is actively being drilled to extract and sell precious minerals. That is what the industry refers to as an “Active Well.” There are several other stages an oil or gas well may go through in its lifetime. They are as follows:

  • Inactive – A well that has ceased production for 1 year but is expected to produce again.
  • Suspended – A well that has been inactive for a long period of time, and requires special effort to reactivate, but is expected to produce in the future.
  • Abandoned – A permanently shutdown well in which all of the equipment has been safely removed.
  • Orphaned – Abandoned wells with no owner claiming the rights

What Happens When an Oil Well is Dry?

An oil well “dries up” when it has been drilled sufficiently enough so that it no longer produces a profitable amount of oil. When a company decides to end a drilling operation, the land is often sold to another owner. The extraction equipment is removed and the land is reclaimed or restored. In areas close to residential homes, significant landscaping is performed and evidence of an oil well is generally completely erased.

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