|An orphan well in Kentucky leaks |
decades after being abandoned.
(OVR photo by Brittany Patterson)
The problem is a chronic one in Appalachian oil and gas fields, but experts expect the abandoned well problem to get worse because of the hydraulic fracturing boom, since the lifespan of a fracking well is shorter than that of a conventional well.
In 1977, Ohio created an orphan well plugging program. "From the beginning it has been funded with 14 percent of the oil and gas fund, which is supported by a modest severance tax on natural-gas extraction," Patterson reports. "Later this month, a new law will raise the percentage of the fund that must be directed toward orphan wells to 30 percent."