Perilous Pathways: How Abandoned Wells Can Contribute To Methane Migration Problems

  • Scott Detrow

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Part 1: Why abandoned wells are a problem
Infographic: How abandoned wells can contribute to methane migration
Part 2: How many wells dot Pennsylvania, and why aren’t we plugging more of them?
Map: Known abandoned wells in Pennsylvania
Part 3: How to track down an abandoned well
Part 4: States don’t do much to regulate drilling near abandoned wells
[/module]Methane is a flam­ma­ble, odor­less gas that exists within under­ground shale for­ma­tions.  Because of the porous, intertwined rock formations that many parts of Pennsylvania sit on top of, the gas can naturally seep to the surface. Methane can be dangerous when it migrates into water wells or basements.
Orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells create a natural pathway for methane to migrate from. The process can be accelerated when an active well is drilled into the same formation the abandoned well is tapped into. This occurrence — called “communication” — is extremely rare, but it can create major problems at the surface. A 30-foot geyser of gas and water that burst through the ground in Tioga County in June was likely caused by Marcellus Shale drilling near an abandoned well.
This graphic shows how methane gas can make its way from deep underground into a basement, water well or the ground.



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