A Heriot-Watt University study has found “no evidence” to suggest that England’s decommissioned oil and gas wells are leaking methane into the environment – contrary to previous research.
Dr Aaron Cahill of the university’s Lyell Centre says his findings, published in the International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, should be “reassuring” for regulators and the public alike.
However, another study, conducted in 2016 visited 100 of these decommissioned wells across England, finding that 30% were leaking methane into their surrounding environment.
PM’s suggests turning to Oil and Gas Wells
This comes after Boris Johnson’s suggestion to lift the moratorium on fracking in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, the PM’s proposition was met with threats of protest from Frack Free United.
The group’s campaign director states that elderly “geri-activists” are ready to peacefully protest once more and face prosecution for their cause again.
Of 2000 onshore oil and gas wells in England, 1700 have been decommissioned. These wells are plugged with cement, cut and capped two metres below the ground and buried.
The land is hen returned to use for grazing or farming and are not typically checked afterwards for leakage.
Dr Cahill argues the validity of these findings.
He states that none of the wells he had visited were found to be leaking methane, including four of the wells from the original study.
Additionally, he found the soil the wells were buried in would typically stop gas from escaping due to clay-rich soil being prevalent across England. This potentially makes it almost undetectable at the surface in any case.
In a statement the Heriot-Watt University doctor said: “We drilled 1-2m holes to get closer to the wellhead, and used soil gas samples and a flux chamber to detect any methane and how much might be flowing into the soils and air. The previous study took measurements only at the surface.
“Our evaluation was much more intrusive and we got much closer to the wellhead, but found no evidence of methane leakage from the decommissioned wells.”