Since 2013, as my interest and knowledge about the environment has grown, I’ve also become aware of methane’s destructive greenhouse gas effect. Methane can come from our nation’s energy and agricultural practices, but one less obvious source are “orphan wells.”
Orphan wells are oil and gas wells which were abandoned for various reasons. Once abandoned, many were not properly capped, leading to methane and carbon dioxide leaks. According to a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report, the United States has about 3.2 million abandoned U.S. oil and gas wells, about one-third of them capped.
EPA estimates the wells emitted roughly 218 kilotons of methane in 2018, the latest year measured. This number could be much higher due to incomplete data.