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Monday, June 23, 2014

Are abandoned wells a big source of methane emissions?

A new study by a Princeton University researcher finds that all of the 19 abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania that were examined are leaking methane. The study is still being peer-reviewed, but was reported on in this article in The Guardian.

CO2, Methane, and Brine Leakage Through Subsurface Pathways: Exploring Modeling, Measurement, and Policy Options found that, given the fact that there may be close to 200,000 such wells (or more) in Pennsylvania, the leaks could account for between 4 percent and 13 percent of human-caused methane emissions in the Keystone State.
Extrapolating from these results, the study suggests that uncounted abandoned wells across the country – which aren’t typically monitored for methane leakage - could be a bigger source of climate disruption than previously thought.
The peer-review process should be allowed to work, and the Guardian article contains important observations on the study from prominent researchers that need to be considered.  But clearly, as the study itself says, more work is needed to fully understand how common leaking abandoned wells are in Pennsylvania and nationwide, how much methane they may emit, and the urgency of finding and remediating them.

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