Evaluating Methane Emissions From Decommissioned Unconventional Petroleum Wells in British Columbia, Canada

Aaron G. Cahill*, Mohammad Joukar, Morteza Sefat, Chelton van Geloven

*Corresponding author for this work

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Hundreds of thousands of unconventional natural gas wells recently constructed across North America have transformed the global energy landscape and generated widespread concern relating to fugitive methane leakage. To date, no studies have evaluated the integrity of unconventional wells post-abandonment. Here, we evaluated emissions at nine decommissioned unconventional wells within the Montney region of British Columbia, Canada and found two exhibited co-emission of CH4 and CO2 from surrounding soils indicating integrity failure, releasing up to ∼2,000 kg of CO2-eq/yr into the atmosphere. A further three wells exhibited statistically significant anomalous CO2 fluxes of ∼500 kg/year from surficial soils around the well, likely associated with minor integrity failure and derived from near total soil-based aerobic oxidation of fugitive CH4. These findings suggest that more than half of decommissioned unconventional wells may generate emissions, however only relatively small contributions to GHG emissions result that are significantly mitigated through natural soils-based CH4 oxidation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023GL106496
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number24
Early online date21 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2023


  • fugitive gas
  • hydraulic fracturing
  • integrity failure
  • methane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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