This article was revealed in “The Louisiana Weekly” within the Oct. Four, 2010 version.
The state’s thousands of orphaned wells, left behind by oil and gas producers, are eyesores that also can trigger severe accidents, boating accidents and menacing spills in water. On a day spent fishing or hiking in Southeast Louisiana, you could have been dismayed at seeing these steel-and-wooden constructions, and thought “why is not one thing being executed about them?”
Officials are addressing the industry’s litter, but at a measured pace due to a restricted price range. Since 1993, a state tax on oil and gas producers has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly–and an annual $4 million just lately–for the Oilfield Site Restoration, or OSR, program run by the Louisiana Office of Conservation. Those funds are used for the pricey technique of sealing wells and carting off structural material and equipment.
The state inspects abandoned wells once every three years, in accordance with Patrick Courreges, spokesman for the Louisianan Dept. of Pure Assets. A effectively is taken into account “orphaned” when the operator hasn’t responded to compliance orders or has filed for bankruptcy. The positioning’s standing is then published in the Louisiana Register of monthly, legal notices.
“The OSR program plugs and abandons orphan wells, removes orphan facilities and restores websites as shut as doable to pre-well circumstances,” Courreges mentioned. By addressing one or several sites at a time, officials have made headway in getting rid of jettisoned equipment following a century of drilling.
Since 1993, about eight,200 wells throughout the state have been identified as orphaned, Courreges said. Thus far, this system has closed 2,453 wells, 596 manufacturing and reserve pits, and one other 295 facilities at a value of $65 million. Moreover, about three,000 wells have been removed from the orphan list after non-public operators took sites over, or by way of actions by companies aside from the Dept. of Pure Resources, he mentioned. About 5,400 wells on the state’s orphan listing, or sixty five%, have been cleared from the list to date, leaving 2,762 orphaned wells to be addressed.
Jim Rike, petroleum engineer and owner of Rike Providers, Inc. in Tickfaw–north of Lake Pontchartrain, stated “what has happened up to now is that a nicely is sold due to low productivity, it will get bought once more, and then the ultimate owner tries to squeeze the final drop out of it. The owner stops using the properly and is obligated to abandon it properly, however he cannot afford to and declares bankruptcy.”
Many of those eery-wanting, outdated services are in native bays, lakes and bayous. In St. Bernard Parish, Captain Johnny Nunez, proprietor of Fishing Magician Charters in Shell Beach on Lake Borgne, stated “we nonetheless have oil and gas platforms mendacity in the water in this area from Katrina. The outdated buildings are rusted and have components that break off.”
Nunez continued, saying “hundreds of lively and inactive wells exist in Breton Sound, Black Bay and Bay Eloi. A lot of them, even a number of the energetic ones, haven’t any lights. The locals know where they’re, however they’re nonetheless a hazard–notably for boats coming in from different locations.”
The shrinking coast is one motive companies abandon gear, Nunez mentioned. Two boaters ran right into a gas pipeline in Eloi Bay in summer 2009, and one was severely injured. “That pipeline was on land, however due to coastal erosion it is in the water now,” he said. “The injured boater could not acquire damages because the pipeline proprietor is not in enterprise.” Lake Borgne, now a lagoon linked to the Gulf of Mexico, was as soon as a lake that was separated by wetlands from the Gulf.
In the meantime, in a latest accident south of recent Orleans, a tug vessel pushing a barge struck an abandoned wellhead within the Barataria Waterway in July, taking pictures natural gas, light crude oil and foul water into the air. The nicely, which was unlit, belongs to the Cedyco Corp. in Houston and is in Louisiana’s orphan program. The gush lasted practically per week and left 1000’s of gallons of oil and miles of sheen in Barataria Bay.
A prolonged battle to shut previous wells continues in Lake Pontchartrain, in accordance with John Lopez, coastal scientist and director of the Coastal Sustainability Program at Lake Pontchartrain Basin Basis. He mentioned “approximately four or 5 oil and gas wells, owned by two firms, are producing within the lake, and about two dozen, unused structures exist. Many of those constructions must be removed by the end of next yr, nonetheless, by owners or by the state’s orphan effectively program. “It’s hoped that the only remaining constructions can be these still in service and in compliance.”
A 2008-09 survey of Lake Pontchartrain, performed by Lopez and his colleague Andrew Baker, discovered that 25 defunct, oil-and-fuel constructions–of mostly steel and wooden timbers–remained above the lake’s surface. Some are popular fishing spots by day. Quite a few those sites are in disrepair, with timbers that may dislodge in storms, threatening navigation, Lopez said last week.
“With out upkeep, these previous constructions proceed to decay and change into extra hazardous,” Lopez mentioned. Many of Lake Pontchartrain’s defunct wells have no navigation lights and are threats to boaters at night. Amongst these with out lights, some have wellheads that might leak oil or subsurface brine in a collision, Lopez and Baker said in their examine. A number of unused, oil and gasoline services within the lake are near the shore in Kenner, and others are close to the Causeway Bridge.
In 1991, a moratorium was placed on new drilling leases in Lake Pontchartrain, the place reserves are largely pure gas. In 2006, the lake was removed from the federal Impaired Waters listing after a multi-pronged cleanup, and most of it is now thought of safe for swimming.
In lakes close to New Orleans, the Oilfield Site Restoration program “has plugged and abandoned six orphan wells in Lake Pontchartrain, and eliminated an orphan facility there in 1995, spending $864,100 altogether,” Courreges mentioned. OSR additionally received rid of an orphaned facility in Lake Maurepas in 1998 at a cost of $145,000.
Across the state, “the OSR at present averages $162,500 per site for plug-and-abandonment prices in water locations,” Courreges stated. “The cost for plug and abandonment and removal varies, based mostly on wellbore mechanics; nicely depth, location and accessibility; water depth, time of year and out there contractors.”
Rike stated that abandoned, production amenities are an issue in industries throughout the nation. An previous, tapped-out oil nicely is just not nearly as toxic as, say, an unused creosote plant with storage tanks, he said. Creosote, used for wooden remedy, can pollute drinking-effectively water.
You have been in all probability told as a child that rust causes tetanus and have been warned about stepping on nails barefoot. However scientists say tetanus is caused by dirt and germs, not rust. Rike believes that rust from steel in previous, abandoned oil and fuel wells will not be significantly harmful. “Steel rusts slowly, and in most bodies of water, rust would not pose a threat to fish or drinking water,” he stated.
Rike stated a few of the big threats from south Louisiana’s depleted wells are that they bang up boats and snag fishing nets. Any obstacles in the water, like sunken barges in the Mississippi River, are a hazard to navigation, he said, and added that greater vessels use sound equipment or sonar to keep away from them.
Abandoned wells in water past Louisiana’s three-mile restrict are in federal territory. In mid-September, the Obama Administration mentioned oil and gas corporations working in the Gulf of Mexico should plug briefly abandoned wells permanently, and dismantle unused, manufacturing platforms. At that time, Michael Bromwich, head of the Bureau of Ocean Power Administration, Regulation and Enforcement, stated dangers from aging, oil and gasoline infrastructure rise significantly throughout storm season.