A rendition of a fictitious well site before the use of AARP and after the process has completed.

In Alberta, there are roughly 237,000 drilled wells that need to be abandoned and their leases remediated and reclaimed. About 80,000 of these wells are currently non-producing (referred to as inactive wells), while another 90,000 are abandoned wells that still await remediation and reclamation. (Reclamation is a process whereby the lease where the well exists is restored to its pre-oil and gas activity state as if they well was never there.)

To make matters worse, bankruptcies in the oil and gas industry have left thousands of wells without responsible owners throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan, that are known as orphaned wells. As big of a blight that this is on the oil and gas industry across western Canada, a Calgary-based oil and gas service start-up company believes it has a solution that will fast track future drilled wells to never be subject to this abandonment nightmare.

Introducing AutoAbandon LLC, a start-up company whose technology, if approved by the energy regulator in Alberta and adopted by operators, will revolutionize the abandonment and reclamation process with its AARR 2000 technology. The company’s president and VP of engineering, Dirk McGurty, spoke with 2P News this morning to talk about the science behind his company’s AARR process.

Dirk McGurty, P.Eng.

“Operators who employ our technology will not have to worry about abandoning their wells and reclaiming their leases because any wells equipped with AARP will automatically abandon themselves, followed by automatically reclaiming the well’s lease.  We have a proprietary technology that uses a combination of timed-released auto-cementing with thermite, radioactive decay, and a proprietary blend of seeds that will take care of everything for the operator – it’s a set it and forget it type of deal.” – Dirk McGurty, President and VP Eng for AutoAbandon LLC

According to the company’s website, the wellhead (or Christmas tree) of a well is fitted with a metal rectangular toroid box that measures 5 feet per side. The box contains a weight-triggered firing apparatus that suspends a mass of Uranium-235 with a half-life that sees it complete decay in about 30 years. When the U-235 has decayed, a switch is automatically thrown which ignites 10kg of thermite below 50kg of cement being separated from 10L of deuterium oxide (D2O), aka “heavy water” to held slow the thermite’s burning. The process involves the thermite deuterium mix slowly burning down the wellhead causing it to reach over 1700F which results in it melting down and sealing off the well with a mix of molten metal overlain by concrete. This part of the process replaces the manual “cut and cap” method of abandoning a well.

In Phase 2 of the AARP process, which is triggered to start 3 days after Phase 1 (once the ground is at a reasonable temperature), a 300L compostable bag that was hanging over 10m over the Christmas tree, suspended by biodegradable bamboo supports, is punctured allows soil that is amended with peat moss, that contains mixture grass seeds, mugo pine seeds, and an assorted mix of perennial flowers seeds, to drop onto the former wellhead. Phase 3 is taken care of my Mother Nature with some rain and sun, to get the foliage going. The company expects that within 3 months of a well being auto-abandoned and reclaimed, a passerby would see no evidence of a well ever having exited on the lease.

Mr. McGurty currently has the technology being displayed in front of the AEER, and hopes to have it approved by the end of July, 2024. He and his company expect a Phase 1 rollout of this technology by 2025 Q1, at a cost of 10,000 to 20,000 CAD per wellhead, depending on the size of the Christmas tree.

Opponents to the proposed new technology fear that it could harm or rattle wildlife nearby AARP-equipped wellheads. They also claim that it’s likely that the company won’t even be around in 30 years when newly drilled wells are abandoned and if the technology doesn’t work, then there’s nobody to chase down.


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