Global warming is caused by much more than carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, researchers from Princeton University have determined that abandoned wells are a possibly substantial source of greenhouse gas via methane emissions. Some of these wells have monstrous emission numbers, and have been dubbed methane ‘super-emitters.’

The researchers examined 19 abandoned wells in northwestern Pennsylvania and found them to have an incredible amount of methane emissions. When the researchers considered there are roughly 3 million such abandoned wells across the nation, they concluded that the wells could collectively have a very incredible contribution to our greenhouse gas emissions.

Abandoned Well

“The Research indicates that this is a source of methane that should not be ignored,” said Michael Celia, the Theodore Shelton Pitney Professor of Environmental Studies and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Princeton. “We need to determine how significant it is on a wider basis.”

Mary Kang, a doctoral candidate in civil and environmental engineering at Princeton, is one of the researchers. She first began looking into methane emissions from old wells after she researched techniques store carbon dioxide underground. That experience sparked her curiosity about the effects of old wells and methane emissions.

Since methane is an unprocessed form of natural gas, it is incredibly potent as a greenhouse gas. Scientists believe that, after carbon dioxide, methane is the biggest global warming culprit. What makes methane so effective is that, pound for pound, methane is 20 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

However, not all of the wells studied were polluting powerhouses. All of the wells emitted some level of methane, but only 15 percent (roughly 3) of the wells had worrisome emission levels. “The fact that most of the methane is coming out of a small number of wells should make it easier to address if we can identify the high-emitting wells,” said Denise Mauzerall, a Princeton professor on the research team.

Hopefully, this research will result in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions!

What do you think about this research? Are there abandoned wells in or around you area?