Oil Industry

What Are the Dangers of Abandoned Oil Wells

Posted by: Kemmy Law Firm

Once oil companies pump wells dry, employees must ensure they’re plugged correctly. However, it costs a lot of money to seal an oil well, and greedy oil companies might put profit over safety. Unplugged oil wells pose a significant risk to the environment and the people that call nearby towns home. Here’s more on abandoned wells and how they can impact you.

What Are Abandoned Oil Wells?

An abandoned well—also known as an “orphan” well—is an old well that has been inactive for at least 12 months. These abandoned wells are scattered throughout Texas, and according to the Environmental Defense Fund, there are approximately 6,489 abandoned oil wells in the state.

These wells are abandoned for many reasons. The owners might have gone bankrupt, all the oil could have been extracted from the well, or the oil company didn’t want to pay to have the well plugged. Whatever the reason, Texans have been forced to deal with the consequences of their negligence.

How Should Companies Plug Abandoned Oil Wells?

Companies must take the necessary steps to ensure these wells are securely plugged. The most widely used method for plugging oil wells is sealing them with cement. Oil companies might also use drilling mud and bentonite to fill areas of the well that don’t have cement. Additionally, oil companies could use mechanical plugs that help conserve cement.

Why Are Abandoned Wells So Dangerous?

When you drill deep into the ground for oil, toxins and greenhouse gases get released in the process. One toxic gas of particular concern is methane, which could act as an asphyxiant or become flammable, according to U.S. Geological Survey. One study stated that when methane gas reaches 5% to 15% in the air, an explosion could occur.

Methane gas is especially dangerous because it’s invisible and odorless, so you may not know it’s a problem until it’s too late. So, pay attention to any symptoms of exposure, such as nausea, vomiting, vision problems, headaches, or mood changes.

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention right away. Other chemicals in an abandoned oil well could leak into the ground and contaminate wells that produce drinking water for neighboring towns.

Not only does an abandoned well impact the environment and the people that live there, but it also hurts the economy as a whole because it decreases a landowner’s property value. Further, it becomes the state’s responsibility to put up the money to seal these abandoned wells when oil companies don’t.

Who’s At Fault When You Suffer Injuries from Abandoned Wells

According to the Railroad Commission of Texas, anyone who takes over an abandoned oil well assumes full responsibility for plugging the well. So, if someone recently acquired a well and failed to plug it correctly, they could be liable for any damages they caused.

Further, the new well owner must hire an approved cementer to plug up the well per Texas law. They could be liable for not hiring an approved cementer, or the cementer could be liable if they don’t correctly plug the well.

Additionally, oil companies that leave behind abandoned wells and do not clean up after themselves could face civil lawsuits if you or your family suffered damages due to the unplugged well.

How Has Texas Addressed This Issue?

The money needed to clean up these orphaned wells has been hard to come by, and many wells are so old there’s no owner on record. However, in 2022, the Biden administration proposed distributing $343 million to Texas to plug abandoned wells, which gives the state much-needed federal support.

Injured from an Abandoned Oil Well? Call Us Today

Many Texans live close to abandoned wells that threaten their health and safety. You could be suffering from methane gas poisoning or other negative consequences because of an abandoned oil well.

Let our family of oilfield accident lawyers at Kemmy Law Firm help your family recover the compensation you need. Contact us today at 844-334–4388 to schedule your free consultation.

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When you work with us at Kemmy Law Firm, you are working with a family run firm with more than 50 years of combined experience. We are dedicated and successful trial attorneys practicing in West TX, Hobbs, NM, Midland-Odessa, and across the Permian Basin. Our team handles everything from catastrophic injury claims to complex business matters. We are here to fight for you. We dedicate our time and attention to your case and use every resource available to maximize your claim and obtain the best possible outcome.