Reclaiming Abandoned Wells: Methane Mitigation and Environmental Restoration
Orphaned or abandoned wells pose significant environmental and safety risks. These wells, left behind by the fossil fuel extraction industry, are often deactivated due to economic viability, transfer ownership issues, or neglect. With no legal owners responsible for their care, these wells can leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
When the state of Louisiana needed orphan well site restoration experts, the well control incident consultants at CTEH and the fugitive emission specialist at Montrose Environmental partnered to bring a unique, turnkey solution to address the issue at large.
The aforementioned wells had been idle for years, posing a threat to the environment and nearby communities. Plus, currently published methods for quantifying emissions are either highly labor-intensive, academic in nature, or both. This prompted a collaboration with program managers, state experts and academics, and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to develop a more accurate and efficient approach that aligned with the regulatory objectives under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and still met the requirements set forth in the American Carbon Registries (ACRs) methodology for quantifying orphan well emissions.
The primary objective was to address both environmental concerns and social equity by reducing orphaned wells, mitigating methane emissions, and their impact on the environment. This holistic approach aims to create new job opportunities and focuses on well-plugging efforts that showcase the positive environmental impact of restoration projects.
Two teams were awarded this work, with official contracts signed towards the end of 2022. Methane assessments and quantification began in January 2023, with Montrose Environmental and the CTEH team being the methane emission and quantification arm of both teams. To date, they have completed a significant amount of pre and post-plug methane assessments that have contributed to the state of Louisiana achieving its goals for the initial grant funding through the Department of Interior, and setting them up in a prime position to satisfy the requirements for the billions in formula grants coming 2024.
Efforts to restore abandoned well sites breathe new life into the environment, benefiting surrounding communities and helping to secure future funding. Montrose Environmental plays a crucial role in quantifying methane and prioritizing land reclamation and conservation initiatives. This work helps to ensure the safety and preservation of air, water, and soil quality for all.