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Big Source Of Methane is Inactive Oil Wells

Inactive Oil Wells could be leaking millions of kilograms of methane each year into the atmosphere and surface water. The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, is the first of its kind on methane emissions from oil wells in Texas.

Amy Townsend-Small, an associate professor of geology and geography in UC’s College of Arts and Sciences studied 37 Inactive Oil Wells on private property in the Permian Basin of Texas which is the largest oil-producing region on Earth. She found that seven had methane emissions of as much as 132 grams per hour. The average rate was 6.2 grams per hour.

She also added that some of the wells were leaking a lot. Most of them were leaking a little or not at all, which is a pattern that we have seen across the oil and gas supply chain. A few sources are responsible for most of the leaks. Nobody has the access to these wells in Texas.A 2016 study by Townsend-Small found a similar issue in Inactive Oil Wells she tested in Colorado, Wyoming, Ohio and Utah. Those Spread across the estimated 3.1 million abandoned wells, the leaking methane is equivalent to burning more than 16 million barrels of oil. Five of the inactive wells Townsend-Small studied in Texas were leaking a brine solution onto the ground, in some cases creating large ponds.

She said that she was horrified at the beginning. She has never seen anything like this before in Ohio. One was gushing out so much water that people who lived there called it a lake, but it’s toxic. It has dead trees all around it and smells like hydrogen sulfide.

Most of the wells had been inactive for three to five years, possibly because of fluctuations in market demand. Inactive wells could be a substantial source of methane emissions if they are not subject to leak detection and repair regulations. The study was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

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