Energy Exchange

Maximizing the historic job creation opportunity waiting in our nation’s old and leaking oil and gas wells

After over 150 years of boom and bust oil and gas development, there are over a million inactive, unplugged oil and gas wells across the country. A new study published in the journal Elementa describes how, when not properly plugged, these wells can contaminate groundwater and emit methane as well as harmful chemicals into the atmosphere that endanger the economy and public health in communities where they are found. It also provides suggestions for how to maximize the environmental benefits of efforts to plug these wells.

There are 57,000 documented “orphan” wells across the country, meaning they have no owner of record, at least not one that’s still in business, and hundreds of thousands more orphan wells that are not documented. State, federal and tribal governments are left with the responsibility of plugging these wells – some of which have been abandoned for decades.

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Also posted in Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Annular pressure monitoring and testing makes for safer wells

There are nearly a million active oil and gas wells in the United States, and if not correctly designed and maintained, they can leak harmful substances that will irreversibly pollute our land, air and water.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at data from over 100,000 wells and estimates that at least 14% experienced some loss of integrity, which could indicate a leak.

The study’s authors were able to determine the functionality and health of these wells based on data collected from annular pressure tests. In fact, the study analyzed almost 500,000 pressure tests conducted across three different basins — one of the largest studies of well integrity conducted to date.

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Also posted in California, Colorado, Methane, Natural Gas, New Mexico / Comments are closed

The connection between jobs and addressing orphan oil and gas wells

All across the country right now, there are tens of thousands of officially documented “orphan” oil and gas wells creating environmental hazards for their communities. These are wells that the oil and gas industry walked away from because they became uneconomic over time. Rather than properly sealing them, they left state and federal taxpayers holding the bag. These wells can be big sources of air, water and climate pollution if left unaddressed.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions more of these inactive, unplugged wells that need to be addressed. This is not to mention the potential for adding hundreds of thousands of currently active wells to the orphan well inventory as oil and gas producers struggle to survive the downturn in petroleum prices.

Luckily, efforts are underway in Congress and within the presidential transition plan to address these orphan wells. In his economic plan, President-elect Joe Biden laid out his vision for a cleaner and healthier future.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Methane, Natural Gas, New York, Texas / Comments are closed

Two chemicals that remind us why we should exercise caution with the oil industry’s wastewater

Over the past few years, we’ve written a lot about the wastewater generated from oil and gas production — specifically, how little is known about what’s in it and the potential risks of exposure.

But as states try to set standards for how to safely treat and dispose of this waste, there are two chemicals in particular that deserve to be among the regulatory priorities.

The first is a class of synthetic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — PFAS for short. Members of this class, often referred to as “forever chemicals” because they are highly persistent in the environment, are known to cause adverse health impacts in humans. This can include a range of symptoms, including damage to the immune system, low infant birth weights and cancer.

The second chemical is 1,4-dioxane. Short-term exposure to this carcinogen can cause immediate health impacts, like eye, nose and throat irritation and impaired lung function. Prolonged exposure can lead to liver and kidney damage, as well as cancer.

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Also posted in Colorado, Natural Gas, New Mexico, produced water, Texas / Comments are closed

Data underscores need to strengthen Pennsylvania’s methane rule proposal

In July, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection concluded its public comment period on proposed rules to curb methane emissions from existing oil and gas facilities.

As the state weighs feedback, EDF analysis shows Pennsylvania operators emit over 1 million tons of methane annually — 16 times what they report to regulators — and underscores the need for rules that close existing loopholes to properly address this climate and public health risk.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has already demonstrated leadership on methane with permits to cut pollution from new oil and gas infrastructure. Now Pennsylvania has an opportunity to tackle the vast majority of its methane emissions, which come from existing oil and gas facilities.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Methane, Methane regulatons, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Pennsylvania bill gives conventional drillers pass to cut corners, lets communities pay the price

In recent years, Pennsylvania has become an epicenter of the nation’s hydraulic fracturing boom. But even as production from “unconventional” wells – those using horizontal drilling and fracking – has grown, nearly 90% of the state’s 120,000 active wells are older, “conventional” vertical ones that typically rely on traditional drilling methods.

What does that mean for Pennsylvanians? Quite simply, it means that smart, commonsense policies for conventional wells matter. A lot.

However, the state legislature is considering SB 790, which could unravel well-established oil and gas protections while shifting many costs associated with conventional production to taxpayers. As the bill makes its way through the legislature, here are some key facts to keep in mind:

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Also posted in General, Natural Gas / Tagged , , , | Comments are closed