Episode 213: Hidden Hazards – The Orphaned Well Dilemma

Richard Hammack discusses the December special section in The Leading Edge – orphaned and abandoned wells.

When we think about the environmental challenges we face, orphaned and abandoned wells might not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, as this episode reveals, the issue is far more widespread and impactful than many realize. Richard expertly navigates us through the subtle yet critical distinctions between orphaned and abandoned wells, unraveling the complexities of these seemingly dormant structures that dot landscapes worldwide.

The episode offers a fascinating exploration of innovative detection methods, from airborne magnetic sensors to the precision of drone technology, revealing how over 90% of steel-cased wells can be located. In contrast, wooden-cased and casing-removed wells present a formidable challenge.

Listeners will be taken to the historical oil fields of Pennsylvania, where wooden casings from the Civil War era elude magnetic detection, and to the vast terrains of Wyoming, where the quest to find these environmental hazards is equally urgent. The discussion also addresses the potential impact of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (U.S.) on future endeavors to address these wells.

Richard Hammack is the Research Group Leader at the U.S. Dept. of Energy-National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh, PA, USA.

Seismic Soundoff · 213: Hidden Hazards – The Orphaned Well Dilemma

Episode Highlights

  • 2:05 – The definitions for abandoned and orphaned wells
  • 4:43 – Using magnetic and methane sensors to locate oil wells
  • 7:28 – Magnetic method will locate 90% of existing wells if they have steel casing
  • 8:20 – Current limitations on utilizing uncrewed aircraft to locate wells
  • 12:52 – Issues surrounding plugging wells
  • 17:10 – New technology for locating wells
  • 18:46 – Transitioning from helicopter magnetic surveys to drone magnetic surveys

Episode Links

Show Credits

Seismic Soundoff showcases conversations with geoscientists addressing the challenges of energy, water, and climate.

SEG creates these episodes to celebrate and inspire the geophysicists of today and tomorrow.

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This episode was hosted, edited, and produced by Andrew Geary at TreasureMint. The SEG podcast team comprises Jennifer Cobb, Kathy Gamble, and Ally McGinnis. 

Transcription and episode summary support provided by Headliner.

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