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Spatial Risk Analysis of Hydraulic Fracturing near Abandoned and Converted Oil and Gas Wells

This analysis shows that abandoned oil and gas wells – some of them converted into water wells – can be intersected by multiple stimulated reservoirs, and risks for intersection would increase if currently permitted horizontal wells in the Eagle Ford Shale are actually completed.

Abstract
Interaction between hydraulically generated fractures and existing wells (frac hits) could represent a potential risk to groundwater. In particular, frac hits on abandoned oil and gas wells could lead to upward leakage into overlying aquifers, provided migration pathways are present along the abandoned well. However, potential risk to groundwater is relatively unknown because few studies have investigated the probability of frac hits on abandoned wells.

In this study, actual numbers of frac hits were not determined. Rather, the probability for abandoned wells to intersect hypothetical stimulated reservoir sizes of horizontal wells was investigated. Well data were compiled and analyzed for location and reservoir information, and sensitivity analyses were conducted by varying assumed sizes of stimulated reservoirs.

This study used public and industry data for the Eagle Ford Shale play in south Texas, with specific attention paid to abandoned oil and gas wells converted into water wells (converted wells). In counties with Eagle Ford Shale activity, well-data analysis identified 55,720 abandoned wells with a median age of 1983, and 2400 converted wells with a median age of 1954. The most aggressive scenario resulted in 823 abandoned wells and 184 converted wells intersecting the largest assumed stimulated reservoir size. Analysis showed abandoned wells have the potential to be intersected by multiple stimulated reservoirs, and risks for intersection would increase if currently permitted horizontal wells in the Eagle Ford Shale are actually completed. Results underscore the need to evaluate historical oil and gas activities in areas with modern unconventional oil and gas activities.

Bibliography:
Brownlow JW, Yelderman JC Jr, James SC
Spatial Risk Analysis of Hydraulic Fracturing near Abandoned and Converted Oil and Gas Wells.
Ground Water. 2016 Sep 27. doi: 10.1111/gwat.12471. [Epub ahead of print]

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