Plugging Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells Provides Climate and Jobs Benefits

Plugging Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells Provides Climate and Jobs Benefits

For over a century, fossil fuel companies have drilled oil and gas wells in the United States to increase the production, consumption, and export of fossil fuels. These wells are often abandoned once they are no longer profitable, and are sometimes left unplugged or improperly plugged, causing local environmental hazards and contributing to global climate change. The bipartisan infrastructure package, H.R. 3684, includes $4.7 billion to remediate orphaned wells, an initiative that will create new jobs while simultaneously curbing emissions.

In general, abandoned wells are unproductive wells with an identifiable owner, whereas orphaned wells are unproductive wells without an identifiable owner. Across the United States, there are at least 3.3 million abandoned oil and gas wells, about 60 percent of which are unplugged. There are also 56,600 documented orphaned wells in need of remediation, most of which are state and private lands, but thousands of undocumented wells also likely exist.

Unplugged wells leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas 25 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, and other pollutants that contribute to the climate crisis, harm public health, and contaminate water. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that abandoned wells emitted 290 kilotons of methane in 2018, equal to burning over 16 million barrels of oil. Methane poses such a significant threat to the climate that the recently released Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calls for “strong, rapid and sustained reductions” in methane to avert the most significant impacts of climate change.

In many cases, the burden of plugging orphaned wells falls on states. According to Resources for the Future (RFF), “while states and the federal government fund well plugging activities through bonding requirements, industry fees, and other sources, these funds have not historically been adequate to reduce the inventory of orphan unplugged wells.” Current bonding rates on federal lands have not been updated in over 50 years, resulting in inadequate funds to ensure wells are properly remediated. Some unproductive wells have been unplugged for decades due to a lack of funds. With no private party to take responsibility for these wells, taxpayers are on the hook for their cleanup.

In addition to reducing methane emissions, plugging abandoned wells also could produce thousands of jobs. An RFF report estimates that plugging 500,000 wells could create as many as 120,000 job-years (a job-year is one year of work for one person). The number of orphaned wells is tied to cyclical changes in oil and gas prices, and are predicted to increase if oil and gas prices decrease. The report suggests that the federal government should focus on older wells that were abandoned before modern regulations to disincentivize oil and gas companies from abandoning wells in the future.

Employment gains from plugging wells could help offset job losses from the oil and gas industry, which lost an estimated 76,000 jobs from February to June of 2020. Additionally, the skills required to plug wells—a process that often involves sealing wells with cement and remediating land—are similar to those required in the oil and gas industry, which could help facilitate the job transition.

Congress recently passed bipartisan legislation focused on plugging orphaned wells. The Revive Economic Growth and Reclaim Orphaned Wells (REGROW) Act of 2021 (S.1076/H.R.3585), which was integrated into the bipartisan infrastructure bill, will provide $4.275 billion for orphaned well cleanup on state and private lands, $400 million for cleanup on private and tribal lands, and $32 million for research. According to a press release, the legislation aims to plug every documented orphan well in the country.

Terra-Petra Abandoned Oil Well Services

Starting in the 3rd quarter of 2021 Terra-Petra saw a significant uptick in oil well abandonment projects that we are being asked to bid on. There are multiple steps involved with abandoning an oil well (orphaned or not). Initially we engage the California Department of Conservation, Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) to start the Construction Site Well Review (CSWR) application process.

The CSWR is used to assist local permitting agencies in identifying and reviewing the status of wells that are located near or beneath structures. Simultaneously Terra-Petra’s Petroleum Engineering team starts the well abandonment permit process by reviewing the historic well files and preparing the permit package for submittal to CalGEM for review and approval. This process can take anywhere from 3 to 5 months. Once we have permits in hand, we can move into the physical abandonment process. Terra-Petra may spend between 2-5 weeks abandoning a single oil well with one of many abandonment rigs.

Later this year (2nd quarter 2022) we are looking to abandon wells in Redondo Beach and multiple sites in Torrance (pending permit issuance). We are currently consulting on oil well related matters for more than two dozen developments having an oil well on the property.

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR OIL WELL ABANDONMENT SERVICES

Mysterious Methane Plumes Spotted Above Texas Oil and Gas Fields

Mysterious Methane Plumes Spotted Above Texas Oil and Gas Fields

By Josh Saul

(Bloomberg) — A satellite spotted two plumes of planet-warming methane rising from a patch of East Texas that’s home to multiple oil and gas operations.

State regulators said they couldn’t identify the source of the methane, which is the primary component of natural gas and traps 80 times as much heat than carbon dioxide in its first two decades in the atmosphere. Stemming methane leaks and stopping unnecessary releases is one of the most powerful steps that can be taken to slow global warming.

The two plumes were detected by geoanalytics company Kayrros SAS using a Nov. 29 satellite observation from the European Space Agency. Kayrros estimated that the plumes originated from different sources east of Dallas, about 15 miles apart, in an area dotted with fossil fuel infrastructure.

The plumes had estimated release rates of 21 tons per hour and 24 tons per hour. It’s not possible to determine the duration of leaks because satellites only capture one moment in time. If they lasted an hour, the two clouds combined would equal the average annual emissions from about 800 cars running in the U.S.

Some methane plumes found by satellites can be tracked to specific sources, especially if a company reveals that it released gas at that location at that time. But without anyone stepping forward, the source of such plumes — where multiple companies are operating in a small area — can remain a mystery. On-the-ground monitoring is also sometimes used to link releases to specific producers.

Companies operating pipelines nearby include Boardwalk Pipelines LP, Enbridge Inc. and Atmos Energy Corp. Boardwalk said it didn’t have any leaks or releases that could have caused the clouds. An Enbridge representative said the company isn’t aware of any such release. Atmos didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

Texas regulators also weren’t able to identify the source of the methane plumes. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality wasn’t aware of the plumes, a representative said. A spokesperson for the Railroad Commission of Texas, the primary state regulator of the oil and natural gas industry, referred questions to the TCEQ.

Terra-Petra’s oil field services offer our clients a one-stop shop for all their oil field needs.  Our team will manage your project from start to finish, encompassing everything from initial consultation to the final report and submission of NFA (No Further Action) letter.

With the seemingly endless moving parts involved in successful oil field construction site plan reviewoil well abandonment / re-abandonmentvent cone installationconsulting and more, it’s important to have an expert by your side every step of the way to manage the process and make sure your budget and schedule stay on track.  With Terra-Petra’s hands-on expertise in ALL aspects of oil field management and consulting we stand out amongst other firms in the industry.

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR OIL FIELD SERVICES

LA to Seek Federal Infrastructure Bill Funds to Remediate Orphaned Oil Wells

LA to Seek Federal Infrastructure Bill Funds to Remediate Orphaned Oil Wells

There are a total of 5,000 oil wells statewide eligible for a portion of the $4.7 billion in remediation funding through the infrastructure bill, according to Uduak-Joe Ntuk, California’s Oil and Gas Supervisor.

Los Angeles officials joined U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland today to discuss opportunities through the new infrastructure bill to fund the remediation of Los Angeles’ idle oil wells.

There are a total of 5,000 oil wells identified statewide eligible for a portion of the $4.7 billion in remediation funding through the infrastructure bill, according to Uduak-Joe Ntuk, California’s Oil and Gas Supervisor. His agency, the California Geologic Energy Management Division, is working to submit an application for the funding. The state will be competing with about 30 other states for portions of the funds, he said.

Haaland noted that Los Angeles County has “one of the highest concentrations of oil and gas wells of any city in the entire country, with some recent estimates suggesting that 500,000 people in L.A. live within half a mile of a well.”

“I’ve spent the day seeing firsthand how legacy pollution impacts people in the neighborhoods they live in. Kids who are relegated to having baseball practice next to oil pump jacks and gas wells, children who have grown up with bloody noses and the loss of the adults in their lives to cancer,” Haaland said.

“These wells can have serious impacts on the health and well-being of the community and the planet, from contaminating groundwater to seeping toxic chemicals and methane gases. That’s not acceptable,” she added.

Los Angeles County has about 1,400 wells identified for potential remediation funding. Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who chairs the City Council’s Energy, Climate change, Environmental Justice and River Committee, said the city will submit a “very detailed plan” to the state on remediating its wells.

Orphaned wells can leak hydrocarbons and methane, and remediation funding would allow the state to cut the wellheads off, fill the wells with cement and remove tanks, vessels and pipelines. After that, the soil would be cleaned and tested. The remediation process can cost as little as $15,000 for individual wells in rural areas and as much as $500,000 for wells in urban areas like Los Angeles, which are typically older, Ntuk said.

“It’s a unique opportunity and arguably one of the largest investments in the environment in a generation,” Ntuk said. “We’ll be able to reduce methane emissions from these well, we’ll be able to protect groundwater, we’re also going to be able to create local jobs that pay well.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti joined Haaland, Ntuk, O’Farrell and Councilman Gil Cedillo at Vista Hermosa Park, a roughly 10-acre park that reopened in 2008 after several idle wells within the park were remediated.

Garcetti said the city would apply for the federal remediation funding frequently to address the rest of its idle wells.

“I think we’re so used to being down on ourselves that we forget to celebrate when something historic, with Republican and Democratic support, passes. It’s not just important for D.C., it’s important for Echo Park, it’s important for Temple-Beaudry or Vista Hermosa,” Garcetti said.

Terra-Petra Abandoned Oil Well Services

Starting in the 3rd quarter of 2021 Terra-Petra saw a significant uptick in oil well abandonment projects that we are being asked to bid on. There are multiple steps involved with abandoning an oil well (orphaned or not). Initially we engage the California Department of ConservationGeologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) to start the Construction Site Well Review (CSWR) application process.

The CSWR is used to assist local permitting agencies in identifying and reviewing the status of wells that are located near or beneath structures. Simultaneously Terra-Petra’s Petroleum Engineering team starts the well abandonment permit process by reviewing the historic well files and preparing the permit package for submittal to CalGEM for review and approval. This process can take anywhere from 3 to 5 months. Once we have permits in hand, we can move into the physical abandonment process. Terra-Petra may spend between 2-5 weeks abandoning a single oil well with one of many abandonment rigs.

Later this year (2nd quarter 2022) we are looking to abandon wells in Redondo Beach and multiple sites in Torrance (pending permit issuance). We are currently consulting on oil well related matters for more than two dozen developments having an oil well on the property.

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR OIL WELL ABANDONMENT SERVICES

Oil Well Due Diligence – Uncover, Leak Test, Well Head Survey

Terra-Petra is undertaking, on behalf of a Southern California engineering firm, the task to locate uncover and leak test a single oil well in Stanislaus County CA.

The California Department of Conservation, Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) requested this work to be performed as necessary oil well due diligence.

The tasks performed will encompass a geophysical survey and report, a well head excavation, a well head sniff test, a well head survey, an oil well summary report and overall project management.

Terra-Petra’s oil field services offer our clients a one-stop shop for all their oil field needs.  Our team will manage your project from start to finish, encompassing everything from initial consultation to the final report and submission of NFA (No Further Action) letter.

With the seemingly endless moving parts involved in successful oil field construction site plan reviewoil well abandonment / re-abandonmentvent cone installationconsulting and more, it’s important to have an expert by your side every step of the way to manage the process and make sure your budget and schedule stay on track.  With Terra-Petra’s hands-on expertise in ALL aspects of oil field management and consulting we stand out amongst other firms in the industry.

Abandoned Oil Well Leak Test – Redondo Beach, CA

ABANDONED OIL WELL CONSULTATION, INSPECTION AND TESTING

Terra-Petra was recently hired to by the developer of a Redondo Beach property to consult on all California Department of Conservation, Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) requirements associated with the potential discovery of an old abandoned oil well on their property.

Historical records and photos identified the oil well within the property boundaries, however, previous efforts to locate the well by the developer proved fruitless.

Once engaged by the client Terra-Petra employed our standard process for well locations which we call our “oil well due diligence”.

STEP 1 - Geophysical Survey

Terra-petra survey crew setting up equipment for site survey
Hand-held magnetic locator used to locate well casing for excavation

The first step in the process is to conduct a geophysical survey of the site. Oil Wells can be identified by the magnetic anomaly that shows up when conducting this work given that their casings are usually constructed of steel. Steel cased oil Wells have a specific “signature” that is very distinct from other metallic objects such as buried pipe or equipment. It becomes very apparent in the mapping system when an oil well is present.

STEP 2 - Oil Well Excavation

Soil excavation process after locating underground well casing.
Exposed top of well casing in excavation pit

The second stage of the process is to physically locate the well by excavating and uncovering it. We inspect the integrity of the casing and the surface plug (if present). Once this is done, we notify the local CalGEM representative that we have located a well and that we will be conducting the leak testing.

STEP 3 - Oil Well Leak Test

Excavated top of well casing cleaned and prepped for leak test.
Top of well casing after FID leak test and bubble test.

We then conduct a leak test at the well casing to identify if any fugitive gasses are emanating from the casing. The precise location of the oil well is then surveyed in by our survey crew and plotted on a site plan per CalGEM’s standards.

STEP 4 - Final Inspection & Client Summary Report

Soil monitoring procedure of excavated / stockpiled soil.
Backfilling of excavation pit, restoring surface grade elevation.

All information from our activities are compiled into a summary report and provided to the client for distribution to the appropriate agencies.