A consortium led by Los Alamos National Laboratory is using federal funding provided to find orphaned wells and help states prioritize plugging efforts. The Infsatructure Investment and Jobs Act included $30 million to establish the consortium, which is tasked with developing technologies and best practices that will be used to locate undocumented orphaned wells, characterizing the construction of the wells determining how much methane they are emitting as well as looking at wellbore integrity and environmental impact.
The consortium includes the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the National Energy Technology Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.
LANL’s Hari Viswanathan is the lead scientist overseeing the multi-national-lab effort.
“I think [orphaned wells are] a very impactful problem and it is sort of a grand challenge because there’s a lot of these wells out there and they’re pretty challenging to detect,” he said. “That actually requires leading edge science to do that.”
He said there are an estimated hundreds of thousands of orphaned wells nationwide and addressing them has bipartisan support. “You don’t want these wells polluting people’s land,” he said. “You also don’t want the climate impacts of these wells.”
Orphaned wells are essentially wells that, for reasons like age and bankruptcy of the company that operated them, now have no owner of record.