There are few things that affect everyone around the world as dramatically as climate change. With greenhouse gases constantly being released through vehicle, electrical and industry-related emissions, the focus is often put into reducing these forms of pollution.
However, one form that is often overlooked by the world is the vast collection of unmanned and abandoned oil wells. These wells release thousands of metric tons of methane into the atmosphere each year and contribute a significant portion to the greenhouse footprint. This problem is exactly what the Well-Done Foundation (WDF) is challenging itself to rectify in Montana, starting in Toole County.
“There are thousands of orphan wells in Montana and a huge chunk of those numbers are in Toole County,” said Well-Done Foundation chairman Curtis Shuck Jr. “We are working to plug these wells and to help make an immediate impact in the surrounding area.”
The Well-Done Foundation, founded in November, 2019, in Bozeman, is a non-profit organization that recently opened in the visitor’s center in Shelby.
The visitor’s center includes a plethora of interactive activities, a history of the oil wells in the surrounding area and photos for visitors to examine as well. The office hours are currently on an appointment-only basis due to COVID-19.
The WDF has capped three wells scattered across northern Toole County to date with the most recent being Anderson #7.
The process takes anywhere from three months to a year to complete, beginning with a multi-month monitoring period to collect emission data and develop a priority list of wells. Each well costs anywhere from $25,000 to $30,000 to cap.
After weeks of data readings, communication and cooperation with the landowners and completion of a Plugging and Abandonment Plan from the Montana government, the WDF team is able to begin filling the well with cement before welding a cap on it. After it has been closed, a 10-year monitoring period begins in order to maintain the safety and effectiveness of closure.
“We are always employing the latest technology in our process to speed everything up,” Shuck said. “It is a very involved process with a bunch of smaller pieces coming together to complete this one goal. It is really satisfying and great to see it all finished.”
The focus for the WDF team is currently on wells that are on the orphaned list in Toole County, which is well over 100 orphaned wells currently. However, the team is not limiting itself to Toole County and hopes to make an impact in Glacier, Pondera and other Montana counties in the future.
One of the unique aspects about the project is the immediate impact that the closure has on the air and soil surrounding the well. The annual emissions from one orphan well are roughly 4,500 metric tons, according to Shuck. This is comparable to the emissions of 1,000 vehicles annually.
“The instant impact that the closure has on the atmosphere and surface level is one of the best parts of what we do,” Shuck said. “We benefit from it so quickly and it is only working to make a better world for our children and everyone around us.”
The work done by WDF is completed without the funding of taxpayer money, explained Shuck. The project is entirely funded through private money, mainly donations and investments.
WDF employs one full-time employee in Toole County but is hoping to make the jump to three full-time employees by December.
The team is working on projects across several states, including Texas, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming, but is taking its first steps in Montana.
“We are proud to be making this state, this country and this world a better place for future generations,” Shuck said. “We are made in Montana and we are making it a better place one well at a time.”
The WDF is always looking for investments or donations to support their project and to help make Montana and the world a better place for future generations.
For more information, see their website at www.welldonefoundation.com or check out their Facebook page.