CALGARY, Alberta – Reclaiming abandoned wells is common practice throughout the oil and gas industry world wide. Operators are typically mandated by a regulatory body to dump a bit of cement down the wellbore, cut and cap the wellhead, backfill the land, and wrap things up by planting some grass and random plants on the lease so it at least looks like the well was never there.
But an environmental lobby group, co-lead by the Pembina Cardium Institute and the Enemies of the Petroleum Industry, is calling to both the provincial governments and regulators to mandate that oil and gas companies also reclaim the subsurface.
We feel that reclaiming the surface is only the first step in the reclamation process. There are organisms down there that deserve to have their environment restored as well. And what about Mother Earth? Leaving all of that metal tubing down there is akin to leaving needles in your arm after you go get a flu shot – it doesn’t make sense. I’m not sure how companies will do this, but we feel it is the least that they can do for Mother Earth after exploiting her for black blood. – Dr. Rufus Hendrix, P.Geo, environmental geologist
Although the group’s leader is unclear exactly how the subsurface will be reclaimed, a panel of industry experts have met and brainstormed on how such a process could be executed, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be easy. According to a report generated by the group of experts, operators would have to follow a process similar to the one outlined below in order to meet a requirement of reclaiming the contents of the entire wellbore:
- Drill bits would be equipped with a new tool, just in front of the bit, that would photograph the rock an instant before it is cut. The photographs, which would include meta data that describes the orientation and the precise 4D location of each cutting, would be transmitted to a yet-to-be invented mechanical memory filing system at the surface that would effectively arrange the cuttings in order in a special cuttings collector.
- Another specialized machine, that also doesn’t exist, would then take the cuttings and store them in order in dedicated Sea Can containers that, once full, would be shipped to a large storage facility in the countryside, cleverly disguised as a quadplex hockey rink. (or in a real rink no longer being used because of adolescent drug abuse)
- When a well is to be abandoned and reclaimed, all rods, casings, tools, and cement would have to be carefully removed. At this point the Sea Can would be shipped back to the lease.
- In this step, an even more sophisticated machine would effectively reverse the drilling process by slush pumping the cuttings combined with a special epoxy, in order, in their original position and orientation, through a special UnDrill bit as it is pulled from TD up to surface.
- At this point the surface could be reclaimed in typical fashion.
In addition to the amended reclamation process, operators would no longer be allowed to cut core, because doing so would disrupt the cuttings storage process. Instead, they would have to rely on logs alone, and even then, only passive logs that did not transmit anything into the rock, so as to not disturb the delicate subsurface ecosystem and sensitive Liberal microorganisms. As industry analysts expected, those on the PNG exploration side of the industry do not favour this proposal.
You have got to be shittin’ me. This can’t be real. How much would this cost? The process is strictly theoretical? Who gives a Damn about the ecosystem 2000m under the surface? Me and my guys will fight tooth and nail to stop the proposal from those ecofreaks to reclaim the subsurface. That is some bullshit right there. – Larry Luffler, Area Field Foreman, PetroSchmakken