Jun 3, 2022 - News

Plan to shutter oil wells at DIA takes shape

A pumpjack surrounded by mostly empty land as seen from a plane arriving at Denver International Airport.
Oil and gas wells on Denver International Airport property as seen from a passenger plane landing at the airport in Denver. Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Denver City Council next Monday will consider a contract to plug and close 64 oil wells on the Denver International Airport property.

Why it matters: Decommissioning the wells helps better position the airport to achieve its sustainability goals.

  • Reducing the airport's carbon footprint is part of the travel hub's Vision 100 plan, which seeks to have 100 million annual travelers while being the greenest airport in the country.

Of note: The wells haven't produced any oil or gas since May 2018, but still cost the city money to maintain.

By the numbers: The airport estimates it costs $750,000 each year to sustain the inactive wells and keep them in compliance with state regulators.

  • By decommissioning the wells, DIA is saving $2 million it would have needed to spend in 2025 and 2026 to conduct a state-mandated integrity test.
  • Between 2011 and 2018, the airport made $17.3 million in revenue from the oil and gas wells, according to DIA spokesperson Stephanie Figueroa.

Details: If Denver City Council approves the $9.2 million contract with Utah-based oil service provider Delsco Northwest, work will begin this July and end by July 2023. That money would pay to plug and close the wells, and remove other equipment at the airport.

  • The cost of the well maintenance does not use public tax dollars and instead comes from DIA's own budget, according to Figueroa.

Context: The wells were inherited by the airport when the land was annexed by Denver from Adams County in 1988 to build DIA.

  • The airport has 38 tank batteries and 131,000 linear feet of underground oil flowlines, which will be demolished and removed as part of the deal.
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