Thousands of abandoned oil wells are just sitting idly in the United States alone. These abandoned oil wells are known as orphaned oil wells. After being overlooked or abandoned by the companies who drilled them, they pose enormous risks to neighboring people and the environment. Often, the taxpayers and the States are left to clear them up. Talk to a New Mexico Oilfield accident lawyer to learn more.
What are orphaned oil wells?
Over the last century, fossil fuel companies and individual landowners in the United States have drilled millions of holes into the earth to extract natural gas and oil. The operator moves on when a well runs dry (as they all do eventually). “Orphaned” wells are ones for which no former operator or owner can be found, whereas an “abandoned” well is often unproductive with a known operator or owner.
The wells remain uncapped in either case. They are open holes in the ground that must be cleaned and filled with cement to prevent pollutants from escaping into the environment.
How many orphaned and abandoned wells are there?
According to a recent Reuters investigation, the United States may have more than 3.2 million abandoned and orphaned wells. Some states have a few hundred, while others have thousands.
They can be found anywhere there has been oil and gas development, from large-scale operations spread over many acres to single-well setups on tiny plots of land.
Why are abandoned and orphaned wells dangerous?
The simple answer is this, abandoned and orphaned oil wells are dangerous because they leak. Benzene, hydrogen sulfide, and arsenic are some contaminants that can leak out and contaminate groundwater, air, and soil. Even minor leaks can greatly harm the local ecosystem if ignored or unnoticed for many years.
Alarmingly, these wells also leak a large amount of methane, an odorless gas that can seep into surrounding schools, homes, offices, etc. Methane can pose a lot of major health hazards. Long-term methane poisoning can also result in death.
Speak to a legal professional today.
No matter what the cause may be, oilfield accidents are always catastrophic and devastating. They can leave workers with serious injuries that can impact them for the rest of their lives. If you or a loved one has been injured in an oilfield accident, you need to get professional help. Schedule a consultation with an experienced oilfield accident attorney today and get the legal help you deserve.