States and provinces have varying approaches and resources for managing the risks from orphaned oil and gas wells. Available funds are insufficient to mitigate (by plugging) all known orphaned wells across the U.S., not including undocumented orphaned wells. As such, state and tribal agencies need efficient strategies to find orphaned wells, collect and document adequate information to characterize them, and prioritize plugging operations to optimize reductions in environmental impacts. In Spring 2022, the CATALOG team received responses from a questionnaire distributed to state representatives from the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC). The questionnaire was designed to determine what factors are important to consider, and what the states’ priorities are, with respect to orphaned wells. Results are described in O’Malley et al. (2023), but in summary, some of the biggest data needs/gaps were identified as location, ownership, well construction, mechanical integrity, surface impacts, and methane emissions. Factors that states consider in ranking orphaned wells for priority plugging include leaking fluids, proximity to people and water, age and construction, mechanical integrity, wellhead pressure, hazards to wildlife and navigation, and economic efficiencies. There are clear opportunities for the CATALOG team to provide tools and technologies to fill in the knowledge gaps toward developing more effective plugging prioritization strategies.
An efficient transfer of knowledge gained as part of the CATALOG program is needed to enable the transition of research & development results into practice. The primary challenges associated with knowledge transfer include standardization and integration of data needed for application of UOW identification and monitoring tools, verified results from field testing, and descriptions of best practices for locating and characterizing UOWs on a region-specific basis. The objectives of the activity under this work package are to provide integrated and standardized data and to develop best practices recommendations for well finding, emissions measurements and characterization methodologies for use by Federal, State, and Tribal agencies.
Activity 1: Data Integration
- A report of differences in state-to-state definitions and development of a common understanding of terminology was completed, with the intention of guiding the national discussion and allowing direct comparison of research conducted in multiple states
- A stakeholder engagement plan was devised by Sandia and put into action to contact New Mexico agencies and the Department of Interior for interviews
Activity 2: Field Demonstration
- Questionnaire regarding the needs of CATALOG research teams for field testing and demonstration sites was distributed to research project leads
- An initial field demonstration of several methane emissions measurement techniques was conducted at Hillman State Park, PA
- Field testing is planned for Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest: testing of well finding approach that uses a compilation of digital resources and route planning optimization, and emissions measurements will be collected at wells that are found
Activity 3: Review and recommendation of best practices
- A whitepaper titled “Procedure for locating oil and gas wells in the Appalachian Basin” is under review and will be finalized next quarter
- Reports and datasets were compiled for the best practices guidance document on magnetic surveying for well location