Energy Exchange

New Mexico can protect its citizens by closing an orphan well loophole

View of a pumpjack at a wellsite in Hobbs, NM. Foreground is a metal fence with barbed wire.

By Adam Peltz and Meg Coleman

New Mexico’s legislators have a remarkable opportunity in the coming days to protect New Mexico families, businesses and the environment by revising the antiquated Oil and Gas Act with House Bill 133. 

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New study shows need for accurate methane measurement at orphan oil wells and throughout industry

New research from Colorado State University reveals significant quantities of methane leaking from the state’s orphaned oil and gas wells — an urgent problem for the state to address as the number of abandoned oil and gas wells have surged in recent months. This study underlines the importance of both the state’s efforts to plug and remediate orphan wells as well as the efforts underway at the state Air Pollution Control Division to better understand and quantify methane emissions from oil and gas wells in the production sector.

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Posted in Methane regulatons / Authors: / Comments are closed

New Louisiana rule will plug old oil wells, create jobs, safeguard environment

The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources has finalized new rules to help improve management of 17,000 non-productive oil and gas wells by encouraging their proper closure —an action that will create jobs, raise property values across the state and facilitate new clean energy projects.  

Louisiana has a long history of oil and gas development, with 50,000 wells distributed across the state and along the coast. The state has a responsibility to ensure none of these wells become an environmental or economic liability.

A long-abandoned oil well sits off Louisiana’s coast

About a third of these wells are non-producing but registered as having future utility, meaning the operator claims that they could be economically productive in the future. As a result, the operator isn’t required to plug the well. However, once wells are idled for more than three years, just one in five ever return to service. Often they will only see a tiny fraction of their former production levels.

Unplugged wells cause a host of economic, environmental and even public health and safety problems. They can leak methane and toxic air pollution, contaminate water, reduce property values and prevent other economic uses of the land. 

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Posted in Methane, Methane regulatons / Comments are closed

New maps unveil scale of U.S. orphan well challenge, highlight solutions at hand

Last year, for the first time, EDF and McGill University mapped every existing documented orphan well across our country. Shortly after, Congress passed the Infrastructure and Investment Act, IIJA, which included $4.7 billion to document, plug and remediate orphan wells.  This new funding, secured through EDF’s leadership, provides federal support for the first time for states, Tribes, and federal land management agencies to find and plug orphan oil and gas wells that are inactive and unplugged with no solvent owner of record.

Prior to this legislation, states, which oversee 90% of the wells in the country, had a fraction of the funding needed to plug wells with the unfortunate result that they often sat unplugged for decades. Now, we’re publishing an updated orphan wells map that draws on newly available data to offer decision makers and the public a clearer picture of the issue.

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First “orphan” well plugged as federal program gains momentum, more to be done


In the fall of 2021, after much effort by EDF and other stakeholders, Congress included $4.7 billion in funding as part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, to close as many “orphan” wells as possible, with a focus on leaky wells near communities.

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Posted in Air Quality, Texas / Comments are closed

Rogue methane leaks from idle wells carry four big takeaways for policymakers

An ongoing methane leak involving several long-term idle wells in Southern California is raising safety concerns for nearby residents and highlights an important climate issue. Southern California has some of the worst air quality in the country, and leaks like these compound the negative impacts on some of the country’s most vulnerable populations. Both in California and across the country, many hundreds of thousands of end-of-life oil and gas wells are idle. That means that they are just sitting around awaiting proper site closure, which involves plugging the wells with cement to prevent gases or liquids from escaping and threatening the environment and public health.

Several such wells were recently found to be leaking methane — a powerful greenhouse gas that often escapes from oil and gas facilities alongside other toxic pollutants — in the Morningstar section of Bakersfield, CA. Local residents are concerned about the possibility of subsurface methane migration to homes and other structures in the vicinity.

While CalGEM and other agencies work to investigate and remediate the situation, four takeaways are already emerging:

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Posted in Air Quality, California, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed