Oil and gas wells can act as conduits for fluid leakage to overlying aquifers and gas emissions to the atmosphere. Leaking fluids include methane, other hydrocarbon gases (e.g., ethane, propane), oil, and water. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 34 to 86 times that of carbon dioxide; therefore, reducing methane emissions can substantially reduce global warming. Millions of abandoned oil and gas wells exist across Canada, the United States and abroad as a legacy of decades to more-than-a-century of oil and gas production. Recent studies show that these abandoned wells are emitting methane to the atmosphere and contributing to groundwater contamination. In this talk, field studies quantifying and characterizing methane emissions from abandoned wells will be presented – in particular, their role in regional greenhouse gas emissions and methane emissions reduction strategies. Then, the quality and quantity of deep groundwater across southwestern U.S. will be discussed, along with their implications on oil and gas development.
Mary Kang is an assistant professor in the department of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics at McGill University. Her research areas are groundwater hydrology and environmental impacts of subsurface-based energy development. Her recent work includes studies of methane, carbon dioxide, and water migration through geologic faults and abandoned oil and gas wells and research on deep groundwater supply and quality. Previously, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Earth System Science department at Stanford University studying water, energy, and climate problems using modeling and field measurement studies. She received a Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Princeton University, a Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy certificate from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and a M.A.Sc. and a B.A.Sc. in Civil Engineering from the University of Waterloo. Between her time at Waterloo and Princeton, she worked as a water resources engineering consultant based in Reston, VA.