PENNSYLVANIA LEGACY WELL INTEGRITY AND EMISSIONS STUDY
It is important to note that the legacy well overprint poses substantial development challenges for the shale gas industry in certain parts of the state where the penetration depths of older wells may render them vulnerable to the transmission of pressures and fluids originating at nearby shale wells undergoing hydraulic fracturing, i.e., hydraulic fracturing communication. In such cases, the adjacent abandoned well may serve as a conduit to shallower intervals of the subsurface. Development challenges are compounded in areas of natural gas extraction that coincide with deep underground coal mining.
To better understand hydraulic fracturing communication risk factors and evaluate other characteristics of the legacy well population in the state, a recent field assessment has been implemented in Pennsylvania. As part of this assessment, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) representatives have analyzed and evaluated the integrity of a random, representative selection of abandoned, orphan, and plugged conventional wells in historical development areas. Some of the study locations intersect with current or prospective areas of shale gas development. It is anticipated that the results of this study will make it possible to better quantify the agency’s plugging liability, allow DEP to explore different funding models to address the state's legacy well problem, and inform regulatory program activities considerate of environmental risk.