It is not news that the oil and gas industry has left millions of abandoned wells across America and places the responsibility for closing those open wells on American taxpayers. Despite receiving billions in government grants every year, the fossil fuel industry just doesn’t care about our planet, its people, or how the industry harms the environment. There might be some good people working in the industry, but the industry itself doesn’t care about anything but profits.
However, there are good people working in these industries – let’s be honest here. We all have to make a living in one way or another. Some end up working in the oil, gas or coal industry, perhaps not even realizing what problems they are contributing to. One of those good people is Well Done Foundation Founder Curtis Shuck Jr., a 30-year oil industry veteran.
The problem: abandoned oil wells
The problem is, when an oil company finishes pumping oil from an oil well, it abandons the well. Also called orphan wells, they contribute to the release of toxic chemicals into the environment. Like ABC News reported in 2021, some of these wells release methane. This particular article also shared the story of Ashley Williams Watt, who owns a cattle ranch in West Texas. Long before his family owned the land, the land was an oil well drilling site where the wells were plugged with cement decades ago and forgotten. However, Watt noticed that the wells appeared to have become disconnected while releasing dangerous chemicals into the groundwater below the ranch.
“I watch this well literally spit salt water into my water table, then I have to go home at night, and I’m sweaty and tired and smelly, and I take the shower and I turn on the shower and I turn it on. look, and I think, will this shower kill me?
There are millions of these orphan wells all over the United States.
The good news
In the BBC video above, Shuck shares that the well his nonprofit is plugging is only a few hundred yards from someone’s home.
“They need to be capped because it’s just the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter to me where you live on the climate spectrum, whether you’re a climate activist or a climate denier. It’s just the right thing to do.
The 30-year-old retired oil executive added that when he saw the situation left by the industry, he was horrified.
“I was embarrassed […] that in any universe we would have thought it was okay to walk away from something like this.
The video included an interview with an owner, Andrew Groce, who lives near the well. Groce noted that having an oil well in your backyard is not that uncommon in his community.
“They are all finished. Any walk in the woods will show an abandoned well somewhere.
Shuck pointed out that there is an opportunity to have an intersection between passion and purpose.
“If we can provide a platform for others to participate in this great work and inspire others to do this work, we really win the game.”
The Well Done Foundation, which is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, has several projects they are currently working on. So far, the association has blocked 14 wells. Although 14 is a small number compared to the 2.15 million unblocked wells estimated by the EPA, the 14 wells that were plugged emitted more than 500,000 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent over a 10-year period. This equates to 108,740 passenger vehicles driven for a year or the energy consumption of 99,009 households for a year!
On the website, you can see a list of projects for which the foundation has funding to cap, needs funding, or has already been plugged in. An ongoing project that has been funded but not yet plugged in is here in Louisiana.
Fenner # 2, part of the foundation’s Five Bayous project, is an orphan oil well located in Caddo Parrish. My hometown of Shreveport is the seat of the parish of Caddo Parrish. The well is located near Mooringsport, near Caddo Lake, a man-made lake that crosses the Texas-Louisiana border and is rich in wildlife. The well was recently abandoned in 2017 and the amount of CO2 equivalent emitted per year is 2,336.08. The cost of plugging the well is $ 30,000.
The foundation noted that it cannot plug all the 2.15 million orphaned wells on its own, but the goal is to provide a model and a scalable model for the oil states and the nation to help fight the climate change by plugging one oil well at a time.
If you’d like to help, the foundation is looking for volunteers who can help with a wide variety of things – from social media to plugging wells. You can also donate directly here.
Image courtesy of the Well Done Foundation
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