The state’s oil and gas department announced that Texas will start capping around 800 abandoned oil and gas wells this fall after obtaining a preliminary $25 million award from a programme contained in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan. It’s a small portion of the estimated 7,400 known inactive oil and gas wells that must be filled across the state, and experts in the field think that number is likely an underestimate. The newly established federal programme is likely to give Texas several additional millions of dollars.
Methane, a strong greenhouse gas and the second-largest driver of climate change after carbon dioxide, leaks from abandoned oil and gas wells. If the wells are not properly plugged, they may also leak hazardous chemicals and water into the neighbourhood. In West Texas, a single orphan well that leaks incredibly salty groundwater and hydrogen sulphide gas has created Lake Boehmer, a sizable artificial lake. Methane has a shorter atmospheric lifetime. According to scientists, one of the best short-term strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change is to minimise methane emissions.
According to the commission’s notice of intent to apply for federal money, which The Texas Tribune was able to get, the estimated cost to seal and wash up the pollution from all 7,400 reported wells is roughly $482 million. However, according to a Department of the Interior assessment, Texas will probably only be eligible for around $344 million in federal funding, which is less than that amount.
The federal orphan oil and gas well clean up and plugging programme will be funded with $4.7 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure bill that Congress passed last year. Each Republican member of the House from Texas, as well as Republican U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, all opposed the measure. A total of $560 million was first awarded to 24 states, with Texas receiving the first allocation of $25 million. The department believes, based on state applications, that there are more than 10,000 key-focus well sites ready for repair.
The commission stated in a news release that the federal funds will speed up the state’s current effort to cap and clean up inactive oil and gas wells. The state surpassed its objective of plugging 1,000 wells in the current fiscal year in June. Researchers at Columbia University’s Center for Global Energy Policy previously conducted a study of state data and discovered that the cost to plug and recover a well in Texas ranges from $20,000 to $40,000.
The commission was instructed to speed up well plugging efforts by the state legislature in 2011; the organisation has money set aside for that reason. In addition, in order to guarantee that they will clean up well sites after they are shut down, Texas additionally needs oil and gas producers with more than 100 wells to pay a $250,000 bond. According to the commission, Texas will begin plugging wells with the inaugural $25 million grant on September 1.
They will use the grant cash to plug abandoned wells, the commission’s assistant director of the oil and gas division for field operations, Clay Woodul, said in a release. They will employ their established success with workplans, staff knowledge, and contractual processes.