Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells

Abandoned oil wells aren’t something someone thinks about especially when buying a house, but for some it’s a hidden danger. “In Colorado alone, there are more than 35,000 abandoned wells. There are more than 50,000 in Wyoming.” (Source 1) Officials believe that plugging said wells, usually with cement, means that the well is dead and can no longer do any harm. This means that there is no monitoring set in place to keep these wells in check. “When a state sees a well is plugged, they typically put a checkmark by that well in a database or in a file somewhere, and they don’t do anything (else) for the most part,” (Source 1) Methane is present in all gas and oil wells  and if accumulated in a confined space, being a dangerous gas, can be explosive. Tests have been done on both plugged and unplugged wells, with a majority only leaking small amount. Unplugged wells weren’t the only ones that were leaking a lot; most of the plugged ones were to blame. “Engineer Mary Kang estimated that abandoned wells account for 4 to 7 percent of the state’s total man-made methane emissions.” (Source 1) In Alberta, Canada they require monitoring and “found that, on average, 7.7 percent of wells end up leaking.” (Source 1) If leaking wells weren’t bad enough sometimes the locations of the wells was completely wrong. “A quarter of them weren’t where they were supposed to be. Some of them weren’t even close. The furthest well was more than a mile away from where records indicated it was supposed to be.” (Source 1) Be sure to do some deep searching the next time you’re looking at buying a new home to make sure methane isn’t lurking in your backyard. 

(An unplugged oil well in Pennsylvania)