Rebellion Energy Solutions CEO Staci Taruscio dives into the company’s methods when plugging for permanence in this Hart Energy LIVE Exclusive with Editorial Director Jordan Blum

Click to watch the Hart Energy Live interview with Staci Taruscio.

Jordan Blum, editorial director, Hart Energy: We’re here at NAPE in downtown Houston. I’m joined by Staci Taruscio, CEO of Rebellion Energy [Solutions]. Thank you so much for joining us. Obviously y’all are really focused on abandoned and orphan wells. Just wanted to get you to give a bit of an overview and just kind of how big of an issue this is in the oil and gas industry now and continuing to grow as an issue.

Staci Taruscio, CEO, Rebellion Energy Solutions: So we actually just focus on orphan wells, but abandoned and orphan wells often get kind of lumped into the same space, and that ‘abandoned’ term is kind of an umbrella term for a lot of different things. So I’m going to talk about orphans. It’s a big enough problem in and of itself to merit the conversation, but there are roughly 120,000 orphans in the United States today, about eight times that we expect to be in total because a lot of these wells are undocumented and just don’t have the information needed. So that’s just under a million orphaned oil and gas wells in the United States. There’s some interesting research out there to talk about the cost to plug these wells because when it’s an orphan well, it becomes the state’s responsibility to address, therefore taxpayer dollars. It’s about $50,000 to do the land restoration. It’s about $20,000 to do the well plugging kind of on average and according to … studies that are ongoing. And so if you take that 960,000-ish orphan wells in the U.S. and you multiply that by roughly $70,000, it’s just under $70 billion that we’ve kind of set out there and need to find solutions for.

JB: How big of an issue is it? You said there’s a lot of undocumented data issues. How big is it a problem? Just connecting the dots, finding where a lot of these orphan wells are?

ST: It’s a huge issue because it’s dangerous, right? This is a safety concern for a lot of people, especially when they are emitting methane, polluting, things like that. There are a lot of good organizations working on it. There’s a couple of nonprofits. I work with a nonprofit called The Orphan Well Cooperative that’s working a lot on this. Some of the governmental agencies like the National Energy Technology Lab, the Department of Energy are working on that as well. But just boots on the ground. Our organization, when we go out to measure known documented Orphan Wells, we will very frequently come across undocumented orphan wells that we can kind of send through the state’s process to get on the right list and to get access to some of those funds.

JB: So what’s interesting too, I think, is y’all are doing carbon credit programs to plug orphan wells. So I’ll just set this up in saying that a lot of times carbon credit programs can seem kind of nebulous in terms of like, ‘I’m planting a tree in some random rainforest,’ but this is actually solving industry issues.

ST: It is solving industry issues, and it’s very, very tangible. So one of the great things, the carbon market, especially the voluntary carbon market, is so susceptible. It’s in its infancy. It’s so susceptible to bad actors, to folks that are coming in and making claims that aren’t coming to fruition. And so this credit is a couple of things. It’s certainly real, it’s measurable. We go out and we measure with very advanced equipment to a high degree of accuracy exactly what that well is leaking. We stop, we wait 30 days, we come back. We corroborate those two sets of measurements. Then we plug the, well, we actually do a lot of work to plug the well differently than just regulation would require at the state level. That was sort of created around one instance. And now we’re plugging for permanence very specifically, and that requires a different type of plug. So we use the Rebellion method of plugging, and that kind of adds to the quality from a permanence perspective. There’s also measurement done afterwards. And so you’re very immediately, very tangibly taking something that was leaking and would continue to leak for decades, and you’re stopping that leak now and sort of proving it. That is very core carbon principles. But when we think about some of the core carbon principles that [the ICVCM (Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market)] has put out, you’re also talking about governments. You’re also talking about some of the sustainable benefits that help increase the quality of these credits. And so our credits are generated using ACR. That’s a very reputable carbon registry. They have third party verifiers and validators. It’s very scientifically robust. It’s very technical. It adds a lot to the cost to do this work, but it’s worth it if you can spin up this little economy around cleaning up a lot of these wells.

JB: Without getting too deep into the weeds, I guess how would you describe or say what stands out about the Rebellion plugging method?

ST: Yeah, plugging for permanence. I mean, we’ve all seen cement, and cement exists in two forms. It’s either cement or it’s cracked cement. And methane has a very unique ability to kind of seep through some of the cement and create those leaks over time. Again, a lot of these wells are sitting there for decades and decades and decades. And wells that aren’t leaking now will very likely leak into the future. And so the way that we do our plugging is not only to a higher degree standards-wise from an oversight perspective, but we do a lot of extra stuff onsite to ensure that the type of cement we say we’re going to plug is exactly the cement that goes down the hole, and exactly the format with the exact additives needed. All of those things. We take samples of that so we can take them back to the lab and do all of the testing that you could possibly do on some of these samples to prove this 1,000-, 10,000 year-plug going forward. And so it’s really about setting the plug properly, setting a plug all the way from outside the annulus to outside the annulus, not just within the case space. It’s about setting plugs above … and underneath all of the appropriate places to set plugs to protect water, to protect from hydrocarbon bearing zones, so on and so forth. So it’s really just about details and those details are not always played out when you’re trying to get through these wells as quickly as possible and doing a lot of them at a time.

JB: Details definitely matter. Well, thank you so much for joining us here at NAPE. To read and watch more, please visit online at