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Louisiana Removes Defunct Oil Wells But Hazards Stay

This text was printed in “The Louisiana Weekly” within the Oct. 4, 2010 version.
The state’s 1000’s of orphaned wells, left behind by oil and gasoline producers, are eyesores that may trigger critical injuries, boating accidents and menacing spills in water. On a day spent fishing or hiking in Southeast Louisiana, you’ll have been oil refinery southampton dismayed at seeing these steel-and-wood constructions, and thought “why is not one thing being carried out about them “

Propylene Oxide EquipmentOfficials are addressing the industry’s litter, but at a measured tempo 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 $four million not too long ago–for the Oilfield Site Restoration, or OSR, program run by the Louisiana Office of Conservation. These funds are used for the expensive means of sealing wells and carting off structural materials and equipment.

The state inspects abandoned wells once every three years, in response to Patrick Courreges, spokesman for the Louisianan Dept. of Natural Resources. A nicely is taken into account “orphaned” when the operator hasn’t responded to compliance orders or has filed for bankruptcy. The location’s standing is then printed in the Louisiana Register of month-to-month, legal notices.

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

Since 1993, about eight,200 wells across the state have been recognized as orphaned, Courreges said. To this point, this system has closed 2,453 wells, 596 manufacturing and reserve pits, and one other 295 facilities at a value of $sixty five million. Additionally, about 3,000 wells had been removed from the orphan checklist after private operators took sites over, or by way of actions by businesses apart from the Dept. of Natural Assets, he mentioned. About 5,400 wells on the state’s orphan listing, or 65%, have been cleared from the listing so far, leaving 2,762 orphaned wells to be addressed.

Jim Rike, petroleum engineer and owner of Rike Services, Inc. in Tickfaw–north of Lake Pontchartrain, said “what has occurred up to now is that a well is sold due to low productivity, it will get offered once more, after which the final owner tries to squeeze the final drop out of it. The owner stops using the effectively and is obligated to abandon it properly, however he can’t afford to and declares bankruptcy.”

Many of those eery-trying, outdated facilities are in native bays, lakes and bayous. In St. Bernard Parish, Captain Johnny Nunez, owner of Fishing Magician Charters in Shell Seashore on Lake Borgne, said “we still have oil and gas platforms lying in the water in this area from Katrina. The old constructions are rusted and have parts that break off.”

Nunez continued, saying “hundreds of lively oil refinery southampton and inactive wells exist in Breton Sound, Black Bay and Bay Eloi. A lot of them, even some of the energetic ones, don’t have any lights. The locals know where they are, but they’re nonetheless a hazard–notably for boats coming in from other locations.”

The shrinking coast is one motive corporations abandon tools, Nunez mentioned. Two boaters ran into a gas pipeline in Eloi Bay in summer time 2009, and one was severely injured. “That pipeline was on land, but due to coastal erosion it is in the water now,” he said. “The injured boater couldn’t accumulate damages since the pipeline owner is no longer in enterprise.” Lake Borgne, now a lagoon related to the Gulf of Mexico, was as soon as a lake that was separated by wetlands from the Gulf.

Meanwhile, 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 natural gas, gentle crude oil and foul water into the air. The nicely, which was unlit, belongs to the Cedyco Corp. in Houston and is in Louisiana’s orphan program. The gush lasted nearly per week and left 1000’s of gallons of oil and miles of sheen in Barataria Bay.

A prolonged battle to close previous wells continues in Lake Pontchartrain, in keeping with John Lopez, coastal scientist and director of the Coastal Sustainability Program at Lake Pontchartrain Basin Basis. He mentioned “approximately 4 or 5 oil and gas wells, owned by two firms, are producing within the lake, and about two dozen, unused structures exist. Lots of those constructions needs to be removed by the end of next yr, nonetheless, by homeowners or by the state’s orphan effectively program. “It’s hoped that the only remaining buildings might be these still in service and in compliance.”

A 2008-09 survey of Lake Pontchartrain, accomplished by Lopez and his colleague Andrew Baker, discovered that 25 defunct, oil-and-fuel constructions–of mostly steel and wooden timbers–remained above the lake’s surface. Some are standard fishing spots by day. Quite a lot of these sites are in disrepair, with timbers that can dislodge in storms, threatening navigation, Lopez mentioned final week.

“Without maintenance, these outdated structures proceed to decay and develop into more hazardous,” Lopez said. Many of Lake Pontchartrain’s defunct wells haven’t any navigation lights and are threats to boaters at night. Amongst those without lights, some have wellheads that might leak oil or subsurface brine in a collision, Lopez and Baker mentioned in gasification their research. Several unused, oil and fuel services within the lake are near the shore in Kenner, and others are near the Causeway Bridge.

In 1991, a moratorium was placed on new drilling leases in Lake Pontchartrain, the place reserves are principally natural gasoline. In 2006, the lake was removed from the federal Impaired Waters list after a multi-pronged cleanup, and most of it’s now thought of safe for swimming.

In lakes near New Orleans, the Oilfield Site Restoration program “has plugged and abandoned six orphan wells in Lake Pontchartrain, and removed an orphan facility there in 1995, spending $864,100 altogether,” Courreges stated. OSR additionally got rid of an orphaned facility in Lake Maurepas in 1998 at a cost of $145,000.

Across the state, “the OSR at present averages $162,500 per site for plug-and-abandonment prices in water areas,” Courreges mentioned. “The cost for plug and abandonment and removing varies, primarily based on wellbore mechanics; effectively depth, location and accessibility; water depth, time of yr and available contractors.”

Rike stated that abandoned, production amenities are a problem in industries across the nation. An previous, tapped-out oil well will not be almost as toxic as, say, an unused creosote plant with storage tanks, he said. Creosote, used for wooden therapy, can pollute drinking-effectively water.

You had been probably instructed as a kid that rust causes tetanus and have been warned about stepping on nails barefoot. But scientists say tetanus is caused by dirt and germs, not rust. Rike believes that rust from steel in old, abandoned oil and gasoline wells is not significantly harmful. “Steel rusts slowly, and in most our bodies of water, rust does not pose a threat to fish or drinking water,” he mentioned.

Rike stated a few of the big threats from south Louisiana’s depleted wells are that they bang up boats and snag fishing nets. Any obstacles within the water, like sunken barges in the Mississippi River, are a hazard to navigation, he stated, and added that bigger vessels use sound equipment or sonar to keep away from 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 must plug temporarily abandoned wells completely, and dismantle unused, production platforms. At that time, Michael Bromwich, head of the Bureau of Ocean Vitality Administration, Regulation and Enforcement, stated risks from aging, oil and gas infrastructure rise considerably throughout storm season.