Abandoned Wells and Methane Emissions: Understanding the Impacts

Abandoned Wells and Methane Emissions: Understanding the Impacts


The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are almost 3.2 million known abandoned oil and gas wells in the United States leaking dangerous methane gases to the environment. As of 2020, Pennsylvania had about 338,700 abandoned oil and gas wells, making it by far the state with the highest number of unused wells. The other leading states with a high number of abandoned oil and gas wells include Texas, Kansas, Illinois, and Louisiana. In Pennsylvania, some of these wells are alarmingly located in the woods, along river banks, and in people's yards, basements, and even living rooms. Experts agree that plugging these abandoned wells is the biggest leverage we have in slowing down climate change.

Why the EPA Is Concerned About Abandoned Wells

The EPA has long identified leaks from abandoned wells as an environmental problem, a health hazard, and a public nuisance. An abandoned well, even though plugged appropriately, could leak methane and other harmful gases in perpetuity. These leaks link to several instances of groundwater contamination, among other hazards that could harm the environment and people. Another primary concern with outdoor methane leaks is smog creation, which can worsen asthma and other respiratory conditions. 

According to the EPA, federal oversight and regulation are still inadequate, which allows players in the gas and oil industry to continually add to the abandoned well count. This increases the impact that methane and other harmful gases have on the environment and the climate. Also, with the increased environmental scrutiny, leading energy corporations, such as the Royal Dutch Shell plc, are writing down the value of their gas assets in what experts see as an intensified shift to green energy

How Methane Release Is a Danger in Regards to Climate Change

Although its lifetime in the atmosphere is much shorter than carbon dioxide, methane is much more efficient at trapping heat. The Environmental Defense Fund, a leading environmental organization, estimates that methane has 80 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide in the first two decades of the gas in the atmosphere.

Methane also traps heat 28 times more effectively than carbon dioxide over a 100-year timescale, thereby contributing to climate change. With that much global warming potential, the gas directly impacts the climate, affecting human health and crop yields.

Why It's Important to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Methane emissions are expected to increase substantially by 2030 unless immediate action is taken. The presence of methane in the atmosphere can contribute to the abundance of other greenhouse gases, including tropospheric ozone, water vapor, and carbon dioxide. 

Arguably, reducing greenhouse gas emissions will slow down climate change and its subsequent devastating effects on the environment and humanity. Climate change is the leading cause of increased droughts, rising sea levels, and extreme weather events live forest fires, hurricanes, and more. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is integral to achieving a cleaner, greener, safer, and healthier society around the globe. 

Aegex Digitization Tools Can Monitor Emissions

A recent report from the Environmental Defense Fund and Accenture reveals digital technologies play an integral role in monitoring and mitigating emissions in the oil and gas industry. Advanced digitization tools like those offered by Aegex can help monitor methane emissions from orphaned gas and oil. 

Aegex digitization tools are intrinsic and safe solutions that connect people, assets, and data in industries with hazardous locations. These tools offer real-time data about dangerous operations, thus helping companies in the gas and oil industry monitor their active and de-commissioned wells for gas leakage. Aegex digitization tools, such as the NexVu, enable oil and gas companies to deploy fugitive methane emissions monitoring systems in under an hour to detect gas leaks in abandoned wells. This tool gives them real-time data for effective monitoring and decision-making.

Leverage the Right Tools to Monitor Methane Emission in Your Operations

There's little doubt methane is a potent greenhouse gas that can affect the earth's temperature and climate system. Over the last two centuries, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have almost tripled primarily due to human-related activities like oil and gas mining.

Achieving significant reductions of methane gas in the atmosphere would undoubtedly have a rapid and remarkable reduction of the atmospheric warming potential.

Measurement and monitoring of methane emissions using advanced tools like those offered by Aegex can help players in the gas and oil industry account for how much methane from their activities affects climate change. 

Aegex tech tools, such as the NexVu, provide accurate methane emissions measurements for effective monitoring and decision-making. Find out how Aegex Technologies can help you monitor and mitigate the risk of methane emission. Contact us today.