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Fugitive emissions of methane from abandoned, decommissioned oil and gas wells

Lookup NU author(s): Sam Almond, Professor Richard DaviesORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


This study considered the fugitive emissions of methane (CH4) from former oil and gas exploration and production wells drilled to exploit conventional hydrocarbon reservoirs onshore in the UK. This study selected from the 66% of all onshore wells in the UK which appeared to be properly decommissioned (abandoned) that came from 4 different basins and were between 8 and 79 years old. The soil gas above each well was analysed and assessed relative to a nearby control site of similar land use and soil type. The results showed that of the 102 wells considered 30% had soil gas CH4 at the soil surface that was significantly greater than their respective control. Conversely, 39% of well sites had significant lower surface soil gas CH4 concentrations than their respective control. We interpret elevated soil gas CH4 concentrations to be the result of well integrity failure, but do not know the source of the gas nor the route to the surface. Where elevated CH4 was detected it appears to have occurred within a decade of it being drilled. The flux of CH4 from wells was 364 +/- 677 kg CO2eq/well/year with a 27% chance that the well would have a negative flux to the atmosphere independent of well age. This flux is low relative to the activity commonly used on decommissioned well sites (e.g. sheep grazing), however, fluxes from wells that have not been appropriately decommissioned would be expected to be higher. (C) 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Boothroyd IM, Almond S, Qassim SM, Worrall F, Davies RJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Science of the Total Environment

Year: 2016

Volume: 547

Pages: 461-469

Print publication date: 15/12/2016

Online publication date: 26/01/2016

Acceptance date: 21/12/2015

Date deposited: 11/04/2016

ISSN (print): 0048-9697

ISSN (electronic): 1879-1026

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.12.096


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