NETL supports new research focused on undocumented orphan wells

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The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory, recently announced it will support a new research consortium focused on undocumented orphaned wells.

Undocumented orphaned wells were drilled before environmental laws were enacted and are not documented on public maps, or records have been lost.

Over five years, the consortium will identify orphaned wells and determine their full environmental impact. It also will develop and test technologies and processes in the field and deploy technology at scale.

NETL successfully completed projects in northwestern Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and other areas that located abandoned wells and measured their methane emissions.

In Oil Creek State Park near Titusville, Pa., researchers used drones and airborne magnetic surveys to detect the unique magnetic signatures of steel well casings. They also used LiDAR technology to identify topographic anomalies caused by the collapse at the wellhead.

There are hundreds of thousands of undocumented orphaned oil and natural gas wells in the United States, according to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC).

The consortium includes representatives from NETL, four other national labs, the IOGCC, and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided $30 million to establish the consortium.