Gulf awash in 27,000 abandoned wells, screamed the headline. That was just the beginning...
More than 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells lurk in the hard rock beneath the Gulf of Mexico, an environmental minefield that has been ignored for decades.
OMG, OMG...We're ALL GOING TO DIE...!!!!
Except not so much.
While there are a few tens of thousands of plugged and abandoned wells in the Gulf, there are orders of magnitude more plugged and abandoned wells on land around the U.S., a great many of them drilled and abandoned LONG before down-hole technology reached anything like the high levels we now know. I've owned land that had one such well on it, marked on my survey. I once looked for it. It was impossible to find.
Chances are great that, if you went looking for a similar plugged and abandoned well, you, too, would never find it. There are great reasons for that. They were made safe. Long ago. Old oil fields are not minefields, despite what the AP hyperventilists tell you. If you doubt that, I have old oil fields and old minefields you can explore.
Some of the reasons that old wells are safe is because they are carefully abandoned, and they were abandoned because they no longer produce any gas or oil. Not only that, but some of them NEVER produced any gas or oil...or anything else. Some few of them DID produce, but not for long under formation pressure. Those are the kind you see with the "rocking-horse" pump-jacks, pulling up petroleum out of a zone with too little pressure to drive it to the surface...some essentially have no greater pressure than our atmosphere at ground level. Still others produced oil and/or gas for a time, then were converted to injection wells, which return in the ground the highly saturated brine that most oil wells produce as a by-product. By injecting that brine into the same zone as producing wells are drawing from, the brine is used to drive more oil through the formation and to the producing well-bores.
When I was a boy, I visited the La Brea Tar Pits, not too far from my home. It was, by some definitions, a very old wild well. It didn't scare me then, but I didn't have AP writers hyping nonsense, either.