5 Safety Risks of Orphan Wells

by Josh Rinehart

There are over 100,000 documented orphan oil and gas wells in the United States, but some estimates reach into the millions. Since many of the orphan wells are leaking methane, most people recognize negative impact to air quality, but orphan wells also come with health & safety hazards.

5 Safety Risks of Orphan Wells

Here are a few examples:

Poor well head and piping integrity

Due to lack of use and regular maintenance over decades, orphan wells and their components can devolve into disrepair, causing a safety hazard for humans and wildlife nearby.

Flammability of leaking hydrocarbons

Orphan wells often leak natural gas, which is flammable. A spark close to a leaking orphan well can cause an explosion and/or a devastating wildfire.

Overpressure

Orphan wells can pressure up and cause stress on existing well head, piping, and vessels, which may lead to a well blowout.

Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) Gas

Hydrogen sulfide is a toxic gas that can be entrained in hydrocarbons and produced in water. A leaking orphan well can release hydrogen sulfide gas into the atmosphere.

Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM)

Orphan well production components such as the wellhead, associated piping, and vessels can contain NORM above action levels, which require special handling precautions and waste management practices.

In summary, orphan oil and gas wells are inherently hazardous to humans and wildlife. Only those with proper permissions and technical expertise should approach them. At Rebellion Energy Solutions, our dedicated in-house Health, Safety and Environment department assists and teaches our field crews the importance of safety.

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Oil and Gas Industry

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