Energy. Environment. Economy.

Perilous Pathways: Hunting Down Pennsylvania’s Abandoned Wells

Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

An abandoned well in McKean County

There are likely 200,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania. At  best, we know where about four percent of them are.

This is a problem because abandoned wells provide a pathway for natural gas to seep to the surface, where the methane can pool in water wells, basements or other enclosed spaces, and trigger explosions.

Methane migration can also take place when an active drilling site gets too close to an old well. That’s what happened this summer in Union Township, Tioga County. The result: a 30-foot geyser of methane and water.

StateImpact Pennsylvania explored this problem in a four-part series called Perilous Pathways. Click here to read every article, as well as a map plotting the location of every known abandoned well. Listen to our accompanying broadcast report below:



  • Maggie Henry

    DEP is NOT doing their job identifying old abandoned wells at all! I have a USGS map, published in 1926, identifying 1500 wells drilled and in some state of production between 1901-1906 and not a single one of them is on the DEP’s spreadsheet of wells! I actually filed an objection with the EHB over DEP issuing permits in what is known as the historic Bessemer Oil Field. DEP’s response to the objection? Join forces with Shell, who received the permit, who hired the legal firm Babst and Calland of Pittsburgh to represent them at EHB. Why was Shell even involved? The dispute is over granting permits in this six mile wide area that was turned into Swiss cheese at the turn of the last century. There are actually historical references to another 1,500- 2,000 wells drilled here after 1910! DEP is cooperating with multinational corporate interests… Is there anyone who actually believes this is in best interest of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pa or the environment they are supposed to be protecting?

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