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Abondoned Ohio Oil and Gas Wells to be hidden, drones can help locate

Following promising trials using drones to locate abandoned Oil and Gas wells, Ohio officials want to expand their usage and expedite remediation at hundreds of sites throughout the state. The state of Ohio has around 1,000 orphan wells on its books. According to Eric Vendel, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management, there are possibly “many more.”

Drones fitted with magnetometers are hoped to aid in discovering wells that aren’t yet on the state’s radar. Orphan wells are essential because, if not adequately contained, they will continue to emit methane, posing a health and fire risk. Over 20 years, methane is also 84 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Oil and Gas wells that have been abandoned have polluted the soil and groundwater.

Orphan wells are a subset of the broader category of abandoned Oil and Gas wells in Ohio with no legally liable owner. However, once wells are found, it’s unknown if the state’s orphan well programme can be used to repair them. There haven’t been good resources to determine which of the quarter-million wells drilled in the state since the mid-nineteenth century have been adequately plugged or should be classified as orphan wells until now.

In certain instances, wells have only been added to Ohio’s orphan well list after people have complained about them. In one scenario, a well was discovered under the gym floor of a Lorain County elementary school. There has also been no systematic on-the-ground survey to ensure that reported wells were plugged correctly.

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