Orphan wells are a growing problem in the United States. According to a recent report, there are more than 3.2 million orphan wells in America. That number will only grow as energy companies go bankrupt and leave their orphan wells behind.
These wells can cause all sorts of environmental problems, so it's important to find solutions for them. This post explores a few potential solutions for abandoned orphan wells. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this problem, so take time and consider all available options.
Capping and Sealing
One solution is to simply fill the orphan well with concrete. This can be an effective way to prevent leakage and contamination but isn't always permanent. Another solution is to cap the orphan well with a heavy metal or concrete lid. This can also work, but it does not address the leakage issues.
Combining capping and sealing is a great strategy to abandon the well permanently. Here, a contractor caps the wellhead to prevent any further contamination of the surrounding environment. Next, they seal the well with concrete or another impermeable material. This step ensures that there is no pathway for contaminants to escape and no way for people or animals to come into contact with the well. Finally, the area around the well is remediated to remove any remaining contaminants.
Capping and sealing is often the cheapest and most effective solution for orphan wells. In some cases, the well may need to be cleaned out before it can be capped and sealed.
Well stimulation involves the use of high-pressure fluids to clean out the well and make it operational again. The process involves injecting fluids into an orphan well to increase the flow of oil or gas. This can be done by hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," which involves injecting water and chemicals into the well to break up the rock around the reservoir.
Fracking was previously a controversial method of well stimulation because it was believed to cause environmental problems, such as water contamination. However, that has long been disputed. In fact, this process is often the only way to get some orphan wells producing again. Once an orphan well is fracked, experts have to monitor the well closely to ensure that there are no leaks or other environmental problems.
Generally, the well simulation process is often more expensive than capping and sealing, but it can be more effective in some cases. For example, if the well is still producing oil or gas, it may be worth the extra cost to keep it operational.
Both of these solutions have their pros and cons, so you need to evaluate each orphan well on a case-by-case basis to determine the best course of action. Speak to an expert to understand your options better. A company like Calgem Well Abandonment has more information.