Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells
Last week Marty Comini posted pictures on Linkedin showing an old well being plugged next to a house. While in college, I was fortunate to get a summer internship with the PA DEP Bureau of Oil & Gas Management. Through this program, I mapped orphan wells throughout the state and had a field visit with an inspector observing historic wells next to and inside of existing homes.
With the Mine Subsidence Insurance Program, Pennsylvania advertises the risks associated with mine subsidence across the state and is routinely checked when purchasing real estate. However, the risks associated with abandoned wells are typically an afterthought when there is an issue. Oil and gas development in Pennsylvania has been ongoing for over 150 years and permitting requirements were only first enacted in 1955. The IPAA estimates that there are approximately 325,000 undocumented wells. Of those wells, over 200,000 remain unaccounted. The PA DEP has an abandoned and orphan database of over 8,200 wells. In order to expand the database, the PA DEP bureaus have been collaborating and assembling potential oil and gas well locations from historic mine maps. The latest GIS layer published shows over 30,500 historic wells in only southwest PA.
If you are looking to build or buy real estate in Pennsylvania, check mine maps but don’t forget to check for historic wells. Rural, suburban, and urban neighborhoods are all effected. Many of the wells have been buried and there is no obvious evidence on the surface until there is a problem. Developers surveying properties with aerial images and lidar should add a magnetic survey to their due diligence in an attempt to locate potential well sites. The graphic below represents an example of wells and historic well locations in Allegheny County.
Concerned about the potential, hire a consultant to review the situation. Already have an issue with a discharge of liquid or natural gas? Report it to the DEP as soon as possible and get the well plugged.
Information and data source – PA DEP