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Title: Methods for Finding Legacy Wells in Residential and Commercial Areas

Abstract

In 1919, the enthusiasm surrounding a short-lived gas play in Versailles Borough, Pennsylvania resulted in the drilling of many needless wells. The legacy of this activity exists today in the form of abandoned, unplugged gas wells that are a continuing source of fugitive methane in the midst of a residential and commercial area. Flammable concentrations of methane have been detected near building foundations, which have forced people from their homes and businesses until methane concentrations decreased. Despite mitigation efforts, methane problems persist and have caused some buildings to be permanently abandoned and demolished. This paper describes the use of magnetic and methane sensing methods by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to locate abandoned gas wells in Versailles Borough where site access is limited and existing infrastructure can interfere. Here, wells are located between closely spaced houses and beneath buildings and parking lots. Wells are seldom visible, often because wellheads and internal casing strings have been removed, and external casing has been cut off below ground level. The magnetic survey of Versailles Borough identified 53 strong, monopole magnetic anomalies that are presumed to indicate the locations of steel-cased wells. This hypothesis was tested by excavating the location of one strong,more » monopole magnetic anomaly that was within an area of anomalous methane concentrations. The excavation uncovered an unplugged gas well that was within 0.2 m of the location of the maximum magnetic signal. Truck-mounted methane surveys of Versailles Borough detected numerous methane anomalies that were useful for narrowing search areas. Methane sources identified during truck-mounted surveys included strong methane sources such as sewers and methane mitigation vents. However, inconsistent wind direction and speed, especially between buildings, made locating weaker methane sources (such as leaking wells) difficult. Walking surveys with the methane detector mounted on a cart or wagon were more effective for detecting leaking wells because the instrument’s air inlet was near the ground where: 1) the methane concentration from subsurface sources (including wells) was a maximum, and 2) there was less displacement of methane anomalies from methane sources by air currents. The Versailles Borough survey found 15 methane anomalies that coincided with the location of well-type magnetic anomalies; the methane sources for these anomalies were assumed to be leaking wells. For abandoned well locations where the wellhead and all casing strings have been removed and there is no magnetic anomaly, leaking wellbores can sometimes be detected by methane surveys. Unlike magnetic anomalies, methane anomalies can be: 1) ephemeral, 2) significantly displaced from the well location, and 3) from non-well sources that cannot be discriminated without isotopic analysis. If methane surveys are used for well location, the air inlet to the instrument should be kept as close to the ground as possible to minimize the likelihood of detecting methane from distant, wind-blown sources.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [1]
  1. National Energy Technology Lab. (NETL), Pittsburgh, PA, (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
National Energy Technology Lab. (NETL), Pittsburgh, PA, (United States). In-house Research
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
1330215
Report Number(s):
NETL-PUB-20581; NETL-TRS-5-2016
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; legacy wells

Citation Formats

Hammack, Richard W., and Veloski, Garret A.. Methods for Finding Legacy Wells in Residential and Commercial Areas. United States: N. p., 2016. Web. doi:10.2172/1330215.
Hammack, Richard W., & Veloski, Garret A.. Methods for Finding Legacy Wells in Residential and Commercial Areas. United States. doi:10.2172/1330215.
Hammack, Richard W., and Veloski, Garret A.. 2016. "Methods for Finding Legacy Wells in Residential and Commercial Areas". United States. doi:10.2172/1330215. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1330215.
@article{osti_1330215,
title = {Methods for Finding Legacy Wells in Residential and Commercial Areas},
author = {Hammack, Richard W. and Veloski, Garret A.},
abstractNote = {In 1919, the enthusiasm surrounding a short-lived gas play in Versailles Borough, Pennsylvania resulted in the drilling of many needless wells. The legacy of this activity exists today in the form of abandoned, unplugged gas wells that are a continuing source of fugitive methane in the midst of a residential and commercial area. Flammable concentrations of methane have been detected near building foundations, which have forced people from their homes and businesses until methane concentrations decreased. Despite mitigation efforts, methane problems persist and have caused some buildings to be permanently abandoned and demolished. This paper describes the use of magnetic and methane sensing methods by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to locate abandoned gas wells in Versailles Borough where site access is limited and existing infrastructure can interfere. Here, wells are located between closely spaced houses and beneath buildings and parking lots. Wells are seldom visible, often because wellheads and internal casing strings have been removed, and external casing has been cut off below ground level. The magnetic survey of Versailles Borough identified 53 strong, monopole magnetic anomalies that are presumed to indicate the locations of steel-cased wells. This hypothesis was tested by excavating the location of one strong, monopole magnetic anomaly that was within an area of anomalous methane concentrations. The excavation uncovered an unplugged gas well that was within 0.2 m of the location of the maximum magnetic signal. Truck-mounted methane surveys of Versailles Borough detected numerous methane anomalies that were useful for narrowing search areas. Methane sources identified during truck-mounted surveys included strong methane sources such as sewers and methane mitigation vents. However, inconsistent wind direction and speed, especially between buildings, made locating weaker methane sources (such as leaking wells) difficult. Walking surveys with the methane detector mounted on a cart or wagon were more effective for detecting leaking wells because the instrument’s air inlet was near the ground where: 1) the methane concentration from subsurface sources (including wells) was a maximum, and 2) there was less displacement of methane anomalies from methane sources by air currents. The Versailles Borough survey found 15 methane anomalies that coincided with the location of well-type magnetic anomalies; the methane sources for these anomalies were assumed to be leaking wells. For abandoned well locations where the wellhead and all casing strings have been removed and there is no magnetic anomaly, leaking wellbores can sometimes be detected by methane surveys. Unlike magnetic anomalies, methane anomalies can be: 1) ephemeral, 2) significantly displaced from the well location, and 3) from non-well sources that cannot be discriminated without isotopic analysis. If methane surveys are used for well location, the air inlet to the instrument should be kept as close to the ground as possible to minimize the likelihood of detecting methane from distant, wind-blown sources.},
doi = {10.2172/1330215},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = 2016,
month = 6
}

Technical Report:

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  • The objective of this study was to locate legacy wells in Versailles Borough so that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection could mitigate dangerous CH 4 concentrations in the community by venting or plugging leaking wells.
  • United States. When abandoned, many wells were not adequately sealed and now provide a potential conduit for the vertical movement of liquids and gases. Today, groundwater aquifers can be contaminated by surface pollutants flowing down wells or by deep, saline water diffusing upwards. Likewise, natural gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), or radon can travel upwards via these wells to endanger structures or human health on the surface. Recently, the need to find and plug wells has become critical with the advent of carbon dioxide injection into geologic formations for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) or carbon storage. The potential for natural gasmore » or brine leakage through existing wells has also been raised as a concern in regions where shale resources are hydraulically fractured for hydrocarbon recovery. In this study, the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) updated existing, effective well finding techniques to be able to survey large areas quickly using helicopter or ground-vehicle-mounted magnetometers, combined with mobile methane detection. For this study, magnetic data were collected using airborne and ground vehicles equipped with two boom-mounted magnetometers, or on foot using a hand-held magnetometer with a single sensor. Data processing techniques were employed to accentuate well-casing-type magnetic signatures. To locate wells with no magnetic signature (wells where the steel well casing had been removed), the team monitored for anomalous concentrations of methane, which could indicate migration of volatile compounds from deeper sedimentary strata along a well or fracture pathway. Methane measurements were obtained using the ALPIS DIfferential Absorption Lidar (DIAL) sensor for helicopter surveys and the Apogee leak detection system (LDS) for ground surveys. These methods were evaluated at a 100-year-old oilfield in Wyoming, where a helicopter magnetic survey accurately located 93% of visible wells. In addition, 20% of the wells found by the survey were previously unknown or inaccurately located. This study found helicopter magnetic surveys to be an accurate, cost- and time-effective means to locate steel-cased wells in large areas, and is a first step in evaluating whether well detection techniques can be applied effectively for well location screening across broad geographic areas.« less
  • More than 10 million wells have been drilled during 150 years of oil and gas production in the United States. When abandoned, many wells were not adequately sealed and now provide a potential conduit for the vertical movement of liquids and gases. Today, groundwater aquifers can be contaminated by surface pollutants flowing down wells or by deep, saline water diffusing upwards. Likewise, natural gas, carbon dioxide (CO 2), or radon can travel upwards via these wells to endanger structures or human health on the surface. Recently, the need to find and plug wells has become critical with the advent ofmore » carbon dioxide injection into geologic formations for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) or carbon storage. The potential for natural gas or brine leakage through existing wells has also been raised as a concern in regions where shale resources are hydraulically fractured for hydrocarbon recovery. In this study, the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) updated existing, effective well finding techniques to be able to survey large areas quickly using helicopter or ground-vehicle-mounted magnetometers, combined with mobile methane detection. For this study, magnetic data were collected using airborne and ground vehicles equipped with two boom-mounted magnetometers, or on foot using a hand-held magnetometer with a single sensor. Data processing techniques were employed to accentuate well-casing-type magnetic signatures. To locate wells with no magnetic signature (wells where the steel well casing had been removed), the team monitored for anomalous concentrations of methane, which could indicate migration of volatile compounds from deeper sedimentary strata along a well or fracture pathway. Methane measurements were obtained using the ALPIS DIfferential Absorption Lidar (DIAL) sensor for helicopter surveys and the Apogee leak detection system (LDS) for ground surveys. These methods were evaluated at a 100-year-old oilfield in Wyoming, where a helicopter magnetic survey accurately located 93% of visible wells. In addition, 20% of the wells found by the survey were previously unknown or inaccurately located. This study found helicopter magnetic surveys to be an accurate, cost- and time-effective means to locate steel-cased wells in large areas, and is a first step in evaluating whether well detection techniques can be applied effectively for well location screening across broad geographic areas.« less
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sponsored this project to estimate potential energy and monetary savings resulting from the implementation of light-colored roofs on residential and commercial buildings in major U.S. metropolitan areas. Light-colored roofs reflect more sunlight than dark roofs, so they keep buildings cooler and reduce air-conditioning demand. Typically, rooftops in the United States are dark, and thus there is a potential for saving energy and money by changing to reflective roofs. Naturally, the expected savings are higher in southern, sunny, and cloudless climates. In this study, we make quantitative estimates of reduction in peak power demand andmore » annual cooling electricity use that would result from increasing the reflectivity of the roofs. Since light-colored roofs also reflect heat in the winter, the estimates of annual electricity savings are a net value corrected for the increased wintertime energy use. Savings estimates only include direct reduction in building energy use and do not account for the indirect benefit that would also occur from the reduction in ambient temperature, i.e. a reduction in the heat island effect. This analysis is based on simulations of building energy use, using the DOE-2 building energy simulation program. Our methodology starts with specifying 11 prototypical buildings: single-family residential (old and new), office (old and new), retail store (old and new), school (primary and secondary), health (hospital and nursing home), and grocery store. Most prototypes are simulated with two heating systems: gas furnace and heat pumps. We then perform DOE-2 simulations of the prototypical buildings, with light and dark roofs, in a variety of climates and obtain estimates of the energy use for air conditioning and heating.« less
  • Light-colored roofs reflect more sunlight than dark roofs, thus they keep buildings cooler and reduce air-conditioning demand. Typical roofs in the United States are dark, which creates a potential for savings energy and money by changing to reflective roofs. In this report, the authors make quantitative estimates of the impact of roof color by simulating prototypical buildings with light- and dark-colored roofs and calculating savings by taking the differences in annual cooling and heating energy use, and peak electricity demand. Monetary savings are calculated using local utility rates. Savings are estimated for 11 U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in amore » variety of climates.« less