Identification and characterization of high methane-emitting abandoned oil and gas wells

Millions of abandoned oil and gas wells exist across the United States and around the world. Our study analyzes historical and new field datasets to quantify the number of abandoned wells in Pennsylvania, individual and cumulative methane emissions, and the attributes that help explain these emissions. We show that (i) methane emissions from abandoned wells persist over multiple years and likely decades, (ii) high emitters appear to be unplugged gas wells and plugged/vented gas wells, as required in coal areas, and (iii) the number of abandoned wells may be as high as 750,000 in Pennsylvania alone. Knowing the attributes of high emitters will lead to cost-effective mitigation strategies that target high methane-emitting wells.

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