Scientists at consulting firm GHD Services Inc., the University of Cincinnati, and Washington State University measured methane emissions at 138 abandoned wells. Out of over 100 plugged wells, just one was emitting methane, and only at a low level. By contrast, 40 percent of the unplugged wells were leaking methane, and the average leak rate was over 100 times higher than the single leaking plugged well. Overall, average emissions of unplugged wells were 5,000 times higher than plugged wells.
House Bill 1, as introduced in the 86th Legislature, provides $39.1 million in Economic Stabilization Fund (“Rainy Day Fund”) appropriations for oil and gas well plugging and site remediation Without supplemental appropriation and a long-term solution to revenue uncertainty, the chronically underfunded Railroad Commission of Texas will face a reduction in well plugging.
Bond funds collected to plug abandoned wells only cover 15.9 percent of the total annual plugging cost. In the last fiscal year, the Railroad Commission collected $4,288,068 in blanket bonds from 94 operators who abandoned 1,584 wells — collecting $2,707 per well as of April 2016. In the same year, the Railroad Commission spent $11,772,895 plugging 692 wells — spending $17,012 per well.
Sunset Advisory Commission, Railroad Commission of Texas, 2016–2017
85th Legislature Staff Report with Final Result