14,000 oil and gas wells unplugged in Gulf of Mexico

14,000 oil and gas wells unplugged in Gulf of Mexico

An offshore oil platform within the Gulf of Mexico

Shutterstock / nektofadeev

Greater than 14,000 inactive oil and gasoline wells are open within the Gulf of Mexico. Leaks from wells can injury marine ecosystems and improve planet-warming methane emissions, however it could value billions of {dollars} to plug them.

Mark Agerton Davis on the College of California and colleagues collected knowledge from the U.S. Bureau of Security and Environmental Enforcement on 82,000 wells drilled within the Gulf of Mexico. Whereas a lot of the wells are clogged and deserted, they’ve seen greater than 14,000 unplugged regardless of being inactive for at the very least 5 years, they’re unlikely to restart manufacturing after that time.

Operators are legally required to plug wells after they’re faraway from manufacturing, this usually entails a cement cap lined with sediment. Simply over 5000 wells are lively.

Particularly oil seeping from wells closest to the shore can injury marine ecosystems. Wells close to shore may also leak methane, which might proceed to achieve the environment. The researchers discovered that methane gasoline seeping from wells within the extra open seas is usually consumed by marine microbes.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, brought on by a surge of pure gasoline blown from a briefly closed properly, reveals the worst-case situation. Conversely, nevertheless, most unplugged wells have been emptied and it’s not clear what impression many minor continual leaks might have. “We do not suppose a lot of devastating explosions,” Agerton says.

An infrastructure invoice handed by the U.S. Congress in late 2021 has allotted $4.7 billion to closure of orphaned land and sea wells. David Small “There isn’t any probability,” says the Nationwide Assets Protection Council, that each properly is clogged. “There is not sufficient administrative consideration or cash,” he says.

Researchers estimate that it could value greater than $30 billion to shut all inactive wells; Plugging wells in shallow waters alone would value about $7 billion. For wells in federal waters, oil corporations that drill wells are obligated to plug these wells, and even when a properly they drill is offered to a smaller operator who cannot afford to plug them, they keep on the hook. In state waters, the price of plugging such “residual” wells might fall to the state.

The researchers say U.S. businesses ought to focus their efforts on shallow water wells that pose the best environmental menace and are the least costly to plug.


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