• USA looking to plug abandoned wells to cut methane emissions

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

One of the many parts of US President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan involves plugging thousands of abandoned oil wells, as the Financial Times has reported. The wells, which are thought to number around 800,000, many of which date from late 19th and early 20th centuries, are estimated to leak something around 280,000 tonnes of methane per year (or 7 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions), as calculated by a recent Columbia University study. While many of the wells are quite old, typical modern practice is for states to require drilling companies to post a bond for each well which in theory is to cover the plugging of the well (which can cost between US$4,000 to $15,000); however, the amount posted is often too low, and there is also a practice for larger companies to offload well assets to smaller, weaker companies that may not be able to follow through on plugging. Mr Biden hopes that with the US$16 billion committed to plugging the wells, jobs will be created and greenhouse gas emissions cut, meeting two of his administration’s objectives. Inclusion of the plugging programme in the larger infrastructure package has become somewhat controversial, with critics saying that it will suggest to businesses that environmental clean-up will be paid for and handled by government and is not their responsibility, and this warning does seem to be reasonable.