Thursday, July 02, 2020

Abandoned gas and oil wells leak methane into air, stinking up rural properties and contributing to climate change

"More than a century of oil and gas drilling has left behind millions of abandoned wells, many of which are leaching pollutants into the air and water. And drilling companies are likely to abandon many more wells due to bankruptcies, as oil prices struggle to recover from historic lows after the coronavirus pandemic crushed global fuel demand, according to bankruptcy lawyers, industry analysts and state regulators," Nichola Groom reports for Reuters

Many of those wells are located on rural land, especially ones that rely on hydraulic fracturing. 

"Leaks from abandoned wells have long been recognized as an environmental problem, a health hazard and a public nuisance," Grooms reports. "They have been linked to dozens of instances of groundwater contamination by research commissioned by the Groundwater Protection Council, whose members include state ground water agencies. Orphaned wells have been blamed for a slew of public safety incidents over the years."

According to a recent Environmental Protection Agency report, more than 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas wells in the U.S. emitted 281 kilotons of methane in 2018. "That’s the climate-damage equivalent of consuming about 16 million barrels of crude oil, according to an EPA calculation, or about as much as the United States, the world’s biggest oil consumer, uses in a typical day," Groom reports. "The actual amount could be as much as three times higher, the EPA says, because of incomplete data. The agency believes most of the methane comes from the more than 2 million abandoned wells it estimates were never properly plugged."

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