Towards quantifying subsurface methane emissions from energy wells with integrity failure

Julia V. Soares, Chitra Chopra, Cole J. C. Van De Ven, Aaron G. Cahill, Roger D. Beckie, T. Andrew Black, Bethany Ladd, K. Ulrich Mayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


The expansion of petroleum resource development has led to growing concern regarding greenhouse gas emissions from fugitive gas migration, which occurs at some wells due to well integrity failure. In this study, we quantify methane surface expression and emissions resulting from gas migration using a number of complementary techniques, and thereby evaluate surface expression processes as well as the strengths and limitations of the monitoring techniques. Methane emissions were found to be highly localized and variable over time. Injected gas reached the surface via preferential pathways through the soils and also along an installed groundwater monitoring well. Cumulative emissions were estimated from flux chamber measurements to be 3.8–6.5% of the injected gas; whereas eddy covariance (EC) data inferred approximately 26% of the injected gas was released to the atmosphere. Together these methods provide enhanced interpretation of surface expression at the site, advance our understanding on fugitive gas migration from integrity compromised energy wells and provide insights to improve monitoring and detection strategies with a view to reducing future greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover that, up to 75% of fugitive gas released at the site remained in the subsurface, shows that capillary barriers will mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from leaky wells; however, may infer greater potential for impacts on groundwater resources, if present.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101223
JournalAtmospheric Pollution Research
Issue number12
Early online date16 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Dynamic closed chamber
  • Eddy covariance
  • Emissions
  • Gas migration
  • Methane
  • Natural gas
  • Well integrity failure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Atmospheric Science


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