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Constraining well integrity and propensity for fugitive gas migration in surficial soils at onshore decommissioned oil and gas well sites in England

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Article number103712
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/09/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control
Number of pages13
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date4/06/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Petroleum resource development generates a legacy of energy wells that must be decommissioned effectively as we transition towards NetZero. Unfortunately, some decommissioned wells (DWs) can suffer integrity failure resulting in release of fugitive natural gas into the surrounding soils and atmosphere. After decommissioning there are typically no ongoing assessments to confirm well integrity, meaning integrity status remains uncertain into the future. Furthermore, factors affecting fugitive natural gas migration in surficial soils around DWs are poorly recognized, inferring integrity assessment and monitoring strategies are lacking. To better understand the integrity status of DWs, identify soil properties controlling fugitive gas migration and help develop more effective monitoring and detection methodologies, we undertook field investigations at six DWs in England involving surficial CH 4 measurements, sub-surface soil-gas and sediment sampling and dynamic flux-chamber measurements. We found no evidence of integrity failure at any site. However, the composition and structure of soils in which examined DWs are embedded suggest fugitive gas migration to surface may be severely limited; potentially mitigating methane emissions while making integrity assessment at the surface challenging. Overall, the integrity status of DWs in England is poorly constrained and we show surficial soil properties must be characterised and considered to effectively constrain the fate of fugitive gas and in order to design effective field assessment and monitoring methods.