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Researchers Discover Thousands of Abandoned Methane Wells in Pennsylvania

Methane wells are the dirty little secret of greenhouse gas emissions. A new study says they're a bigger problem than previously recognized in the state of Pennsylvania.
November 18, 2016, 1pm PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Steve Oehlenschlager

"Pennsylvania has more abandoned oil and gas wells than previously thought, and some are leaking large amounts of climate-damaging methane gas," reports Marie Cusick. Those findings come from a new study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Combining field observations with old books, literature, historical documents and modern databases, researchers from Stanford and Princeton estimate the number of abandoned well in the state of Pennsylvania between 470,000 and 750,000. Prior estimates had the number between 3000,000 and 500,000.

"The study found these abandoned wells collectively account for 5 to 8 percent of Pennsylvania’s annual man-made greenhouse gas emissions," writes Cusick to explain the significance of the increased number of wells. Wells are usually neglected by state and federal greenhouse gas inventories—thus emissions from wells are exacerbating an already large problem, and there's no mechanism to reduce their impacts.

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Published on Monday, November 14, 2016 in State Impact
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