It’s been an exciting year at the Division of Environmental Geology. Carbon capture, utilization and storage, along with the problems and opportunities presented by orphan wells have both been hot topics in the industry and so have been and will continue to be the focus of the DEG.
When I began my term as DEG president a year ago, our goal was to increase the visibility of the Division in the areas of CCUS, as well as natural gas storage, hydrogen storage, compressed air energy storage and geothermal storage. These kinds of long-term storage capabilities are crucial in the expected worldwide energy transition, and petroleum geologists are uniquely qualified to evaluate the risk and uncertainty of subsurface storage methods. We evaluate both containment risk, such as seal integrity and presence of faults, but also the impact of reservoir heterogeneities and reservoir properties on storage capacity.
To that end, the DEG hosted numerous well-attended workshops and sessions at professional meetings over the past year, and contributed to the highly successful CCUS Conference in Houston in April. We have more events of this kind planned for the year to come.
On a related note, the DEG also hosted several events and on the topic of orphan wells.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there might be millions of old and improperly plugged oil and gas wells leaking methane or contaminating groundwater in the United States, and it will cost billions to plug them. These wells can have a detrimental effect on climate and influence a negative public perception of the oil and gas industry.
With the advent of the CCUS industry, the identification of orphaned wells becomes of critical importance for safe storage of CO2.
This is another area that creates a demand for expertise that only petroleum geologists can offer, so the DEG sponsored three webinars on the topic last year and hosted a two-day conference in Oklahoma City earlier this year on orphaned, abandoned and idle wells – how to find them, how the plug them, how geology can complicate their plugging, beneficial alternative uses of orphaned wells, newly available funding sources, historical practices as they relate to borehole integrity, emissions control, groundwater protection and future, emerging opportunities such as carbon credits and blockchain.
Events to Come
The Division will build on that success with several more events over the next year related to orphaned wells, CCUS and other environmental and energy storage-related topics:
- Presentations on methane emissions detection and monitoring technologies during the U-Pitch New Technology Showcase at the Unconventional Resources Technology Conference in Denver this month.
- A post-convention workshop on orphan wells at the 2023 International Meeting of Applied Geoscience and Energy in Houston, Aug. 28-Sept. 1
- A follow-up to the aforementioned highly successful Orphan Wells Conference to take place in the Eastern Section in late 2023 or 2024
In closing, I want to welcome incoming DEG President Herbert A. Vogler III and wish him success in the year to come.