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Abstract: Use of Ground Penetrating Radar to Locate Old Oil & Gas Wells - A Case Study

Harding Lawson Associates, Kansas City, MO
Harding Lawson Associates, Novato, CA

During an environmental due diligence project for an undeveloped site, Harding Lawson Associates (HLA) discovered several oil and gas wells on the 130-acre property. One of the wells initially discovered had not been used for many years, and had never been closed. A detailed information search revealed that many other oil & gas wells likely existed at the site. However, there was no surface expression of these wells and well records contained erroneous location information. In addition, many of the wells were installed in the early 1900s, and could no longer be located on historical aerial photographs.

Because the site was slated for development that included subsurface excavation and blasting of bedrock, it was critical that all oil & gas wells at the site be located. Unclosed wells and poorly closed wells could pose serious safety hazards to construction personnel.

HLA performed a geophysical survey using ground penetrating radar (GPR) on the entire site to locate the wells. The GPR program was highty successful. Twenty five oil/gas wells were located; several of them were not closed and several were leaking gas. The GPR survey allowed the wells to be properly managed, avoiding the potentially catastrophic consequences of encountering unknown wells during construction activities. These same techniques could also be used by E&P companies to locate old wells.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90930©1998 AAPG Eastern Section, Columbus, Ohio