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Montana Ag Network: Counteracting climate change through plugging abandoned gas wells



Cut Banka, Montana — There are an estimated 3.5 million abandoned and unplugged gas and oil wells in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Additionally, the government calculates that those wells release 20 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.

It would take 4.45 million passenger cars off the road or 330 million tree seedlings to replace those emissions levels over a ten-year period.

That is the Well Done Foundation’s purpose.

“It’s about doing the right thing and leaving it better than we found it. We’re not a policy shop. We’re about boots on the ground making a difference one well at a time,” explained Well Done Foundation CEO Curtis Shuck Jr.

The company, which was created and is headquartered in Montana, wants to plug every abandoned gas and oil well in both its home state and the entire nation.

The endeavor is extensive and costly, and it is privately supported through efforts to raise money from donors and organizations.

On October 9 and 10, 2023, the Foundation sealed its 24th well in Montana and the first on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, south of Cut Bank.

Grant Ostby is not the owner of the land but has farmed the property for 30 years, “They’re orphaned, they’re in the way. They’re not in production and there’s nothing getting done.”

The Well Done Foundation is responsible for managing Ostby’s two wells. Twenty years separate the two “legacy wells.”

A legacy well is a structure that was first installed by one business, transferred ownership to the landowner over time, and ultimately ended up in the state and the hands of taxpayers.

“In the time it takes, we can damn near, go around some of these and seed another acre or spray another acre. It’s hugely inefficient.” Ostby expressed his resentment to the wells.

Numerous wells across Montana’s Hi-Line and around the nation are comparable to the Ostby well.

Schuck showed MTN News the gases that are always leaking from the abandoned well in the Palmer Bow Island #01-4.

It was evident from the sulfurous smell surrounding the quarter-acre plot that the fixture was giving off gas.

There is a tiny fracture in the fixture’s welding on a fitting that connects to several nozzles at the top of the well. It emits a tiny hiss, and the gas wave is visible to the naked eye.

To show the well’s emission, Shuck poured bubble-soap onto a fixture that was filled with gas.

After that demonstration, Shuck showed out his iPad reading system that runs on solar power and shows the well’s precise emission.

Methane was the main gas being released from the Ostby well, along with a significant amount of nitrogen and perhaps ten additional gases.

Schuck contrasted the well’s emissions, which amount to the annual emissions of 4,000 automobiles on the road.

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth measuring. Right? That’s kind of the way that we look at it.”

In order to give the Blackfeet Tribe employment and economic prospects, the Well Done Foundation is striving to train them to work on the local oil and gas wells.

In order to plug the wells, the Foundation has already hired out-of-state workers from North Dakota, California, and Canada and given jobs to locals.

These workers support the local economy by being residents of Cut Bank.

The Well Done Foundation intended to make it clear that their mission is to repair the harm caused by the abandoned wells, not to harm oil and gas businesses.

Billy Halabiski, Route Manager said it best, “The longer these wells are open like this, the more damage you can cause to the ground, the water, the air. What we do here is a little bit different. It’s like we’re actually kind of giving back.”


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