Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Wells in Our Back Yard

Just because they can't drill in Marcellus doesn't mean that there's no gas activity in upstate NY. In fact, just last month the Dryden town council members learned that the Anschutz Exploration Corporation has applied for a permit to drill a well into the Trenton-Black River formation.

"This came as a complete surprise," says councilman Jason Leifer. There are no active wells in the town, though there have been a half-dozen dry holes drilled in the past few years.

Trenton-Black River wells are drilled deep - about 10,000 feet down into the dolomitic limestone that underlies the layers and layers of (possibly more productive) Marcellus and Utica shales. They are relatively new wells, like the Stoscheck well above (drilled in 2006). They are drilled with the latest technology and the wellheads, tanks and gathering lines are shiny.

But not all the wells in this area are bright and shiny. Even fairly young ones drilled only a decade ago don't age well in our northeastern winters.

This is the Koabel well located just off Rumsey Hill Rd in Van Etten (Chemung County) NY. Drilling started in June of 1997 and by July 18 the well was completed.

The Koabel well goes down 3732 feet to tap into the Oriskany formation. Folks who used to get royalty checks say that they haven't seen any money from the well for the past four or five years, and they figured that the well had been plugged and abandoned. But according to the DEC website it's still an active well, producing gas - though at a level too low to provide enough energy to fuel a single home for one day.

The tanks look worse for the wear: corroded, flaking, and not terribly reliable.

Then there's the gathering pipeline that connects the Koabel well with another well uphill of it, and carries the gas down to an even larger pipeline. It's been said that a thrifty farmer can repair his tractor using chewing gum and baling twine, but one would hope that a pipeline ostensibly carrying gas from producing wells might receive a bit more TLC than this.


  1. I hope that the good people in your area learn from the pictures you have posted and the unfortunate state of Texas. Just in the area that I live in, we have numerous wells that look like the aged one you refer to. Once they are done "producing", who makes sure that they remain safe and are maintained properly?

    Does that stay there forever until it eventually rusts away to nothing?

  2. Who is monitoring the gas companies from making 'backyard' deals with their lessees to use abandoned wells for brine disposal? Know of an attempt on the part of a company to do just that for a dry deep Black Trenton well in my "backyard". Just who is looking from their backdoor porch? Not the DEC, that's for sure.

  3. Interesting that you should bring up the use of abandoned wells for brine disposal.... I am pretty sure that's why they haven't plugged and officially abandoned those non-producing TBR wells in Van Etten (and in Candor too). Since the Marcellus brine will be full of frack chemicals, high salt content, and radionuclides it might be cheaper to use TBR wells as disposal sites under EPA's rules. In fact, I believe the EPA suggested it at some meeting in PA not too long ago.

  4. good exposé!
    thanks for the great job you're doing keeping us all informed!!!

  5. What happened to the sludge pits? You should probably run a Geiger counter around those sites and make sure you don't have radioactive contamination.