Wednesday, July 7, 2010
A staggering 27,000 abandoned oil wells litter the sea bed of the Gulf of Mexico and no one, not the oil industry or the Federal government, is checking to see if they are leaking, this according to an Associated Press investigation.
Ignored for decades, the oldest of these wells were abandoned in the late 1940s, raising the prospect that many deteriorating sealing jobs are already failing.
The AP investigation uncovered particular concern with 3,500 of the neglected wells — those characterized in Federal government records as “temporarily abandoned.”
Regulations for temporarily abandoned wells require oil companies to present plans to reuse or permanently plug such wells within a year, but the AP found that the rule is routinely circumvented, and that more than 1,000 wells have lingered in that unfinished condition for more than a decade. About three-quarters of temporarily abandoned wells have been left in that status for more than a year, and many since the 1950s and 1960s even though sealing procedures for temporary abandonment are not as stringent as those for permanent closures.
As a forceful reminder of the potential harm, the well beneath BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig was being sealed with cement for temporary abandonment when it exploded April 20th, killing eleven workers and leading to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
BP alone has abandoned about 600 such wells in the Gulf, according to government data.