WorldWide Drilling Resource®

16 SEPTEMBER 2020 WorldWide Drilling Resource ® Putting Gas and Oil Workers Back to Work ~ Plugging Old Wells Adapted from Information by Resources for the Future Researchers with Resources for the Future and the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University examined the potential of boosting employment for the gas and oil industry by tackling another problem - orphaned and abandoned wells. Located around the country, orphaned and abandoned wells are a serious problem. They leak methane and other pollu- tants, causing poor air quality and potential health problems. Today, states and the federal government use bonding require- ments, industry fees, and other resources to pay for plugging wells, however, that wasn’t always the case. Back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, regulations and bonding require- ments were weak, and even nonexistent in some cases. This lead to an abundance of orphaned and abandoned wells. In fact, some estimate there are millions of unplugged aban- doned wells. The majority of them are in Pennsylvania, where commercial gas and oil drilling began in 1859. Since the pandemic has slowed demand for gas and oil, the industry has seen employment decline to levels not wit- nessed since 2006. With equipment and labor readily avail- able, why not put them back to work plugging old abandoned wells? Researchers published the paper, Green Stimulus for Oil and Gas Workers to examine the impact a federal program to fund plugging orphaned wells may have. Here are a few points the paper unveiled: / Plugging orphaned / abandoned wells will reduce air pollution. Every year, abandoned wells in the U.S. emit as much greenhouse gas as 2.1 million vehicles. / A federal program to fund plugging orphaned abandoned wells would create tens of thousands of jobs. More than 76,000 direct industry jobs were lost in the first half of 2020. Unemployed gas and oil workers already have the skills re- quired to plug wells and restore surface sites. For example, plugging requires workers to characterize a well’s interior using wirelines or other logging equipment, cementing portions (or the full length) of the well, testing the integrity of the cement, and hauling equipment / materials. Based on these duties, it appears there is a clear match between the skills of unemployed gas and oil workers and the requirements needed to plug orphaned / abandoned wells properly. The study offered solutions to potential obstacles, and concluded a large federal program focused on plugging these wells has the potential to boost U.S. employment while also reducing air pollution. To read the entire paper, visit rff.org ENV

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