EIA is a non-profit group focused on improving the country's environment
by maintaining and improving the land, specifically land that
was used for oil drilling.
Our mission is to accelerate the retirement of abandoned, or orphaned, oil wells by plugging them with concrete as prescribed by the Oklahoma Water
Resource Board's regulations.
Besides plugging non-producing wells, we also clean up any holdover chemicals and recycling abandoned and rusting equipment.
The United States has a long history with oil and gas. Hydrocarbons helped build the nation’s economy and great cities, as it's a driving force in the culture. However, as the population grows and the economy diversifies, concern for the environment and a healthy lifestyle is growing.
The problem of abandoned oil wells is significant. There are millions of abandoned wells nationwide—3.2 million according to the Environmental Protection Agency—with about 12,000 “orphaned” wells in Oklahoma on the public record as of December 2020. Many more are believed to be in private hands. The state defines an orphaned well as one that is abandoned and taken out of production because it no longer produces enough oil to be viable, or that the company that owned the well went bankrupt.
Each orphaned well is a potential environmental hazard—literally a ticking time bomb ready to go off. When idle wells are left unsealed, they become pathways for oil, gas, or briny water to migrate into groundwater and soil.
The rusting pipes and equipment are hazards for wildlife, livestock, and unsuspecting humans. Many of the wells are releasing methane, a greenhouse gas containing about 86 times the climate-warming power of carbon dioxide over two decades. Some are leaking chemicals such
as benzene, a known carcinogen, into fields and groundwater.
Unplugged oil and gas wells can affect the following:
A study in four states (Colorado, Wyoming, Ohio, and Utah) examined 138 abandoned wells and found that about 40% of unplugged wells emitted methane gas, compared to less than 1% of plugged wells.
Old wells can consist of deteriorated cement or well cement or casing that permits gas, oil, or salty water to enter freshwater aquafers.
The Surface Environment
Contaminated soil, small oil spills and other surface waste along with old equipment can still be present at orphaned well sites. In some poorly plugged or unplugged wells, gas, salty water, oil, or drilling mud can spill out from the well onto the ground surface or into open water in the case of offshore wells.