Advancing knowledge of gas migration and fugitive gas from energy wells in northeast British Columbia, Canada

Aaron G. Cahill*, Roger Beckie, Bethany Ladd, Elyse Sandl, Maximillian Goetz, Jessie Chao, Julia Soares, Cara Manning, Chitra Chopra, Niko Finke, Iain Hawthorne, Andrew Black, K. Ulrich Mayer, Sean Crowe, Tim Cary, Rachel Lauer, Bernhard Mayer, Andrew Allen, Dirk Kirste, Laurie Welch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Petroleum resource development is creating a global legacy of active and inactive onshore energy wells. Unfortunately, a portion of these wells will exhibit gas migration (GM), releasing fugitive gas (FG) into adjacent geologic formations and overlying soils. Once mobilized, FG may traverse the critical zone, impact groundwater, and emit to the atmosphere, contributing to greenhouse-gas emissions. Understanding of GM and FG has increased in recent years but significant gaps persist in knowledge of (1) the incidence and causes of GM, (2) subsurface baseline conditions in regions of development required to delineate GM and FG, and (3) the migration, impacts, and fate of FG. Here we provide an overview of these knowledge gaps as well as the occurrence of GM and FG as currently understood in British Columbia (BC), Canada, a petroleum-producing region hosting significant reserves. To address the identified knowledge gaps within BC, the Energy and Environment Research Initiative (EERI) at the University of British Columbia is implementing several field-focused research projects including: (1) statistical analyses of regulatory data to elucidate the incidence and causes of GM, (2) characterization of regional hydrogeology and shallow subsurface conditions in the Peace Region of the Montney resource play, and (3) investigation of the migration, impacts, and fate of FG in the shallow subsurface through controlled natural-gas release. Together, the EERI investigations will advance understanding of GM and FG, provide scientific data that can inform regulations, and aid development of effective monitoring and detection methodologies for BC and beyond.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-151
Number of pages18
JournalGreenhouse Gases: Science and Technology
Issue number2
Early online date23 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2019


  • fugitive gas
  • fugitive methane
  • gas migration
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • groundwater
  • hydraulic fracturing
  • methane
  • natural gas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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