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Friday, March 12, 2010

DEP Plugs One Of Thousands Of Abandoned Oil/Gas Wells In PA

DEP Successfully Plugs Moon Township Natural Gas Well

PITTSBURGH -- The Department of Environmental Protection reported today that an abandoned well near a residential neighborhood in Moon Township, Allegheny County, has been successfully plugged. The well had been releasing natural gas into the air.

“Within 24 hours of DEP’s execution of an emergency contract on Feb. 24, the flow of gas from the well was stopped,” said DEP Southwest Regional Director George Jugovic Jr. “We are pleased that we were able to act quickly to prevent a dangerous situation.”

Jugovic said that after contractors stopped the flow of gas from the approximately 1,800-foot-deep well, work continued to fill the remainder of the well with cement by perforating a small-diameter pipe left in the hole.

During the next week, the area will be graded, seeded and returned as much as possible to its native state. A permanent marker providing the well permit number, which is required under the Oil & Gas Act, also will be placed at the site.

The well was discovered last fall after a property owner cleared brush from the area. DEP inspected the well and placed it on a list of abandoned wells to be plugged.

The department expedited the work after it received odor complaints from area residents on Feb. 6 and discovered that erosion had created a hole into the casing, allowing an uncontrolled release of natural gas.

While there was no indication that the well posed an immediate risk to area residents or to students attending the nearby J.A. Allard Elementary School, DEP moved quickly to prevent gas from migrating through the soils and away from the well. Migrating gas is unpredictable and can become an explosive risk if it becomes trapped in an enclosed area.

The work was performed under an emergency contract with Hydrocarbon Well Services.

Because abandoned wells can cause many problems, the Oil and Gas Act of 1984 requires well operators to plug non-producing wells. However, many wells were abandoned prior to when state regulations took effect.

In 1992, the legislature amended the Oil and Gas Act to allow certain oil or gas wells abandoned before April 1985 to be classified as “orphan” wells. That amendment also gave DEP the authority and the financial means to plug them.

Funds for well plugging come from Growing Greener grants and from surcharges on well-drilling permits issued in Pennsylvania.

For more information, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us or call 412-442-4000.

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