Oil/gas well integrity failures are a common but poorly constrained source of methane emissions to the atmosphere. As of 2014, Pennsylvania requires gas and oil well operators to report gas losses, both fugitive and process, from all active and unplugged abandoned gas and oil wells. We analyze 589,175 operator reports and find that lower-bound reported annual methane emissions averaged 22.1 Gg (−16.9, +19.5) between 2014 and 2018 from 62,483 wells, an average of only 47% of the statewide well inventory for those years. Extrapolating to the 2019 oil and gas well inventory yields well average emissions of 55.6 Gg CH4. These emissions are not currently included in the state’s oil and gas emission inventory. We also assess compliance in reporting among operators and note anomalies in reporting and apparent workarounds to reduce reported emissions. Suggestions for improving the accuracy and reliability in reporting and reducing emissions are offered.

Find the full report in the April 2020 edition of Environmental Science & Technology.