|Koabel well: not producing, not plugged, just forgotten and rusting.|
That gas didn't come from any of the wells that Shell was drilling. What most likely happened, say state regulators, is that the hydro-fracking activity at Shell's wells displaced shallow pockets of gas that moved underground until it found a route to the surface.
Those routes can be water wells and old or abandoned gas or water wells. The problem, according to Fred Baldassare, is that old abandoned gas wells can have leaky, rotten or even nonexistent casings. He should know, because he studied well problems for PA's Department of Environmental Protection for 25 years. Methane can easily move into natural faults and cracks, following a path toward the surface that can travel through aquifers - and that, he thinks, is most likely how gas ended up geysering 30 feet into the sky.
There are tens of thousands of abandoned, unplugged and forgotten gas wells in the Appalachian gas fields. The NY Department of Environmental Conservation's Division of Mineral Resources sees those wells as a major problem. Their annual reports list 4800 known abandoned wells, but state regulators believe there are at least that many (possibly more) yet to be discovered. They could be in forests, playgrounds, beneath backyards and even under buildings.