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LSU research team identifying orphaned oil wells leaking methane

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LSU research team identifying orphaned oil wells leaking methane

Sep 19, 2023 | 5:50 pm ET
By Piper Hutchinson
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LSU research team identifying orphaned oil wells leaking methane
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A team of researchers at LSU is taking on the thousands of orphaned oil wells in Louisiana to determine which are leaking methane into the atmosphere so they can be prioritized for plugging.

There are more than 4,500 orphaned oil wells in Louisiana, according to a press release from the university, meaning they have been abandoned by the oil companies that drilled them. The team, led by petroleum engineering professor Ipsita Gupta, has so far tested 800 wells and found more than 180 with leaks.

Detecting gas emissions from orphaned wells is trickier in Louisiana than in other states because wells are often located in wetlands that also emit methane. The process is also made more difficult because many wells are on private land, meaning researchers need permission access to measure emissions.

The federal and state governments want to locate leaking wells so that they can be prioritized for plugging, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This project will be impactful for the people of Louisiana,” Gupta said. “It will not only have an immediate impact on reducing methane emissions from orphan wells, which is an important health, safety and environmental concern; plugging orphan wells will also be impactful for ongoing and future efforts on carbon dioxide storage.”

The project is funded by a $3 million grant from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.