Abandoned and unclosed oil wells pose a danger to both people and the environment


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Environmental risks in shallow waters, wetlands and open seas along the Gulf of Mexico, according to a new study. thousands of abandoned and unclosed oil wells exists.

A study published in Nature Energy found waters along the Gulf of Mexico and in Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas. He found that there were 14,000 abandoned oil and gas wells. After collecting data on more than 80,000 wells drilled in the Gulf from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the researchers conducted an analysis of the cost of shutting down these idle wells.

While most of the wells were closed, about 14,000 were left open. The researchers say that capping the wells will prevent environmental damage, but this It may cost up to $30 billion. says.

Unclosed oil and gas wells are a potent greenhouse gas that accumulates in the atmosphere. can leak methane. When methane gas accumulates in a smaller space, it can cause suffocation and is also flammable. Wells being near communities and leaking into homes can pose a significant hazard. These abandoned and unclosed wells about 13,000 are in U.S. federal or state shallow waters. The authors of the study state that priority should be given to these wells when it comes to closure.

Study author, an associate professor at the Louisiana State University Center for Energy Studies Greg Uptonat a press conference, “Methane seeps from shallow water infrastructure are likely to surface” he said and added: “Focusing on shallow water wells closer to the shore, rather than focusing on deeper wells further from the shore, will bring more environmental benefits over costs.

What factors does the cost depend on?

Previous research has shown that these wells can be a major source of water pollution and leach other toxins, including arsenic. Closing the wells will involve a process in which workers use cement to fill the reservoir from which the oil and gas comes. A plug is placed in the well, Upton says, and then more cement is poured over it. The cost associated with this process is usually determined by how much cement is used and the tools needed to properly plug the well in different locations.

It is even more difficult to plug deep water wells further offshore in the Gulf. Wells in shallow waters represent 90% of the sites surveyed and closing them, the team noted. will only need 25% of the estimated $30 billion. The authors of the study,Diving equipment may not be required to reach wells in a swampy environment, but extremely deep water wells are inaccessible even to divers. Requires expensive technology such as remotely operated vehicles” he writes.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that all of these wells will be clogged anytime soon. Operators are responsible for plugging oil and gas wells that are no longer needed, but some companies simply choose to walk away or transfer ownership. If no one is legally responsible for a well, that wellabandoned“It becomes.

Some states in the country have programs to plug these wells, and the Biden administration allocated over $4 billion for abandoned wells last year, Reuters reported. However, this is only a fraction of what would be needed to close the idle wells in the Gulf.

The study authors are working with researchers in the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources to answer questions about how wells affect the environment. Upton, “We help these wells estimate their actual methane emissions to perform a true climate cost-benefit analysis” says.


Abandoned and unclosed oil wells pose a danger to both people and the environment

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