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Fugitive emissions of methane from abandoned, decommissioned oil and gas wells

Boothroyd, I.M.; Almond, S.; Qassim, S.M.; Worrall, F.; Davies, R.J.

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I.M. Boothroyd

S. Almond

S.M. Qassim

R.J. Davies


This study considered the fugitive emissions of methane (CH4) from former oil and gas exploration and production wells drilled to exploit conventional hydrocarbon reservoirs onshore in the UK. This study selected from the 66% of all onshore wells in the UK which appeared to be properly decommissioned (abandoned) that came from 4 different basins and were between 8 and 79 years old. The soil gas above each well was analysed and assessed relative to a nearby control site of similar land use and soil type. The results showed that of the 102 wells considered 30% had soil gas CH4 at the soil surface that was significantly greater than their respective control. Conversely, 39% of well sites had significant lower surface soil gas CH4 concentrations than their respective control. We interpret elevated soil gas CH4 concentrations to be the result of well integrity failure, but do not know the source of the gas nor the route to the surface. Where elevated CH4 was detected it appears to have occurred within a decade of it being drilled. The flux of CH4 from wells was 364 ± 677 kg CO2eq/well/year with a 27% chance that the well would have a negative flux to the atmosphere independent of well age. This flux is low relative to the activity commonly used on decommissioned well sites (e.g. sheep grazing), however, fluxes from wells that have not been appropriately decommissioned would be expected to be higher.


Boothroyd, I., Almond, S., Qassim, S., Worrall, F., & Davies, R. (2016). Fugitive emissions of methane from abandoned, decommissioned oil and gas wells. Science of the Total Environment, 547, 461-469.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 21, 2015
Online Publication Date Jan 26, 2016
Publication Date Mar 15, 2016
Deposit Date Feb 15, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 15, 2016
Journal Science of the Total Environment
Print ISSN 0048-9697
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 547
Pages 461-469
Keywords Well integrity, Greenhouse gases, Shale gas.


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