Louisiana Removes Defunct Oil Wells But Hazards Remain

This article was printed in “The Louisiana Weekly” in the Oct. 4, 2010 version.

Esterification ReactorThe state’s 1000’s of orphaned wells, left behind by oil and fuel producers, are eyesores that also can cause serious injuries, boating accidents and menacing spills in water. On a day spent fishing or hiking in Southeast Louisiana, you might have been dismayed at seeing these steel-and-wood structures, and thought “why is not one thing being carried out about them?”

Officials are addressing the trade’s litter, but at a measured pace due to a restricted funds. Since 1993, a state tax on oil and fuel producers has generated tens of millions of dollars yearly–and an annual $4 million just lately–for the Oilfield Site Restoration, or OSR, program run by the Louisiana Office of Conservation. Those funds are used for the expensive process of sealing wells and carting off structural material and equipment.

The state inspects abandoned wells once every three years, in accordance with Patrick Courreges, spokesman for the Louisianan Dept. of Pure Sources. A effectively is considered “orphaned” when the operator hasn’t responded to compliance orders or has filed for bankruptcy. The site’s standing is then printed within the Louisiana Register of month-to-month, authorized notices.

“The OSR program plugs and abandons orphan wells, removes orphan amenities and restores websites as close as potential to pre-effectively conditions,” Courreges mentioned. By addressing one or a number of sites at a time, officials have made headway in getting rid of jettisoned tools following a century of drilling.

Since 1993, about eight,200 wells across the state have been recognized as orphaned, Courreges said. Up to now, this system has closed 2,453 wells, 596 production and reserve pits, and one other 295 amenities at a price of $sixty five million. Additionally, about three,000 wells were removed from the orphan listing after non-public operators took websites over, or through actions by agencies other than the Dept. of Pure Assets, he stated. About 5,four hundred wells on the state’s orphan checklist, or sixty five%, have been cleared from the record to date, leaving 2,762 orphaned wells to be addressed.

Jim Rike, petroleum engineer and proprietor of Rike Companies, Inc. in Tickfaw–north of Lake Pontchartrain, mentioned “what has happened in the past is that a properly is bought due to low productivity, it will get offered once more, after which the ultimate owner tries to squeeze the final drop out of it. The proprietor stops using the nicely and is obligated to abandon it properly, but he can’t afford to and declares bankruptcy.”

Many of those eery-trying, outdated services are in local bays, lakes and bayous. In St. Bernard Parish, Captain Johnny Nunez, proprietor of Fishing Magician Charters in Shell Seaside on Lake Borgne, said “we still have oil and gasoline platforms lying within the water on this area from Katrina. The previous constructions are rusted and have parts that break off.”

Nunez continued, saying “a whole bunch of lively and inactive wells exist in Breton Sound, Black Bay and Bay Eloi. A lot of them, even among the active ones, haven’t any lights. The locals know the place they’re, but they’re still a hazard–significantly for boats coming in from other places.”

The shrinking coast is one motive firms abandon tools, Nunez said. Two boaters ran right into a gas pipeline in Eloi Bay in summer time 2009, and one was critically injured. “That pipeline was once on land, however because of coastal erosion it’s in the water now,” he stated. “The injured boater couldn’t gather damages because the pipeline proprietor is no longer in business.” Lake Borgne, now a lagoon connected to the Gulf of Mexico, was as soon as a lake that was separated by wetlands from the Gulf.

In the meantime, in a latest accident south of new Orleans, a tug vessel pushing a barge struck an abandoned wellhead within the Barataria Waterway in July, taking pictures pure gasoline, light crude oil and foul water into the air. The properly, which was unlit, belongs to the Cedyco Corp. in Houston and is in Louisiana’s Kinetic Energy orphan Lindsey program. Petroleum Refinery Equipment For Sale The gush lasted nearly every week and left 1000’s of gallons of oil and miles of sheen in Barataria Bay.

A prolonged battle to shut old wells continues in Lake Pontchartrain, in response to John Lopez, coastal scientist and director of the Coastal Sustainability Program at Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. He mentioned “roughly 4 or five oil and fuel wells, owned by two corporations, are producing within the lake, and about two dozen, unused structures exist. Lots of those buildings ought to be eliminated by the tip of next year, however, by house owners or by the state’s orphan nicely program. “It’s hoped that the one remaining constructions will likely be those nonetheless in service and in compliance.”

A 2008-09 survey of Lake Pontchartrain, done by Lopez and his colleague Andrew Baker, found that 25 defunct, oil-and-fuel buildings–of principally steel and wood timbers–remained above the lake’s surface. Some are in style fishing spots by day. Numerous these sites are in disrepair, with timbers that can dislodge in storms, threatening navigation, Lopez mentioned final week.

“With out upkeep, these outdated constructions proceed to decay and turn into more hazardous,” Lopez mentioned. Many of Lake Pontchartrain’s defunct wells have no navigation lights and are threats to boaters at evening. Amongst those with out lights, some have wellheads that would leak oil or subsurface brine in a collision, Lopez and Baker stated in their examine. A number of unused, oil and gas facilities within the lake are near the shore in Kenner, and others are close to the Causeway Bridge.

In 1991, a moratorium was placed on new drilling leases in Lake Pontchartrain, where reserves are principally natural gas. In 2006, the lake was removed from the federal Impaired Waters checklist after a multi-pronged cleanup, and most of it is now thought of protected for swimming.

In lakes close to New Orleans, the Oilfield Site Restoration program “has plugged and abandoned six orphan wells in Lake Pontchartrain, and eliminated an orphan facility there in 1995, spending $864,100 altogether,” Courreges mentioned. OSR also bought rid of an orphaned facility in Lake Maurepas in 1998 at a price of $145,000.

Throughout the state, “the OSR at present averages $162,500 per site for plug-and-abandonment prices in water places,” Courreges stated. “The price for plug and abandonment and elimination varies, based on wellbore mechanics; properly depth, location and accessibility; water depth, time of 12 months and accessible contractors.”

Rike stated that abandoned, manufacturing amenities are an issue in industries throughout the nation. An outdated, tapped-out oil properly shouldn’t be practically as toxic as, say, an unused creosote plant with storage tanks, he said. Creosote, used for wooden remedy, can pollute drinking-effectively water.

You had been in all probability informed as a kid that rust causes tetanus and have been warned about stepping on nails barefoot. However scientists say tetanus is attributable to dirt and germs, not rust. Rike believes that rust from steel in outdated, abandoned oil and gas wells will not be significantly dangerous. “Steel rusts slowly, and in most bodies of water, rust does not pose a menace to fish or drinking water,” he said.

Rike mentioned a few of the large threats from south Louisiana’s depleted wells are that they bang up boats and snag fishing nets. Any obstacles in the water, like sunken barges within the Mississippi River, are a hazard to navigation, he stated, and added that greater vessels use sound equipment or sonar to avoid them.

Abandoned wells in water beyond Louisiana’s three-mile limit are in federal territory. In mid-September, the Obama Administration said oil and gasoline companies working within the Gulf of Mexico should plug briefly abandoned wells permanently, and dismantle unused, production platforms. At the moment, Michael Bromwich, head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, mentioned risks from aging, oil and fuel infrastructure rise considerably throughout storm season.