BRADFORD, Pa. — Work began early Thursday morning to plug a well off Lang Maid Lane, on Bradford Township property owned by Andrew Groce. The work is the start of a new chapter for the Well Done Foundation (WDF), based in Montana, and another page in the longstanding story of the oil industry in Bradford.
The Russell M. Clark Estate #11 well is listed on the Department of Environmental Protection’s orphan and abandoned well list and is the first well in Pennsylvania to be plugged by the WDF.
Curtis Shuck, WDF Chairman, explained that typically, the process for well-plugging begins with two to six months of monitoring methane levels. Shuck explained this highlights the importance of boots on the ground, to help complete monitoring of the site.
“We figure out a plan to measure and monitor and then roll up our sleeves to plug (the well) using a process that is approved by the state,” Shuck said.
Beau Anderson, the project manager on-site for Dallas-Morris Drilling, explained Thursday’s work was “a bit of a fishing job going on” as the crew continued removing rods and tubing as part of the plugging process.
The hope is for concrete to be put down the well today, maybe Saturday, Shuck explained. The process also includes surface restoration once the well is plugged.
“These wells are so old, you don’t know what can happen subsurface, so there are moments of angst,” Shuck said. “We hope it goes smoothly so we can move onto the next.”
The well was drilled in the late 1800s and abandoned in the 1970s. The price tag will be $30,000 for plugging and restoration.
Seneca Resources Co. LLC, donated the funds to facilitate WDF’s work in the area.
Seneca Resources geologist Amanda Veazey explained, “We were looking at sustainability projects in Pennsylvania and California and looking to see how to engage in various projects, such as methane mitigation. We were looking for an orphan well project, and I found Curtis online and started a conversation with him. It is a good project. With Seneca Resources being in the area for over 100 years, we still have operations in the area and employees in the area. Working with a third-party to help them improve the environment was a no-brainer for us.”
The original plan was for WDF to plug a well on the Daugherty family property on Seaward Avenue, but an issue arose.
“For the Daugherty well, we ran into an obstruction and we are working with the state to determine the best approach to make progress on that well,” Shuck said. “With bodies in motion, we wanted to plug a well.”
Shuck explained he was on the Groce property looking at the well site and looking at wells in the area of a nearby creek when he heard of the well on the Daugherty family’s property. It made sense to refocus on the Groce property when the plan for the well on Seaward Avenue had to be delayed.
Since plans have gotten underway for these wells, in addition to a well in the Fifth Ward off of High Street, Shuck said he has received calls and requests from other area residents to take a look at a well on their property.
“That’s why working with Paul Morris of the Appalachian Legacy Project is so important, it provides local partners and gives us connections and the ability to keep equipment locally and remain connected. We opened an office at Penn State and we are working with the earth and mineral science department to develop field projects. Our presence is only going to grow in PA.”
Shuck also indicated that plans include a field office for WDF in Bradford.
The Russell M. Clark Estate alone has nine wells on the orphan and abandoned well list. When this project is finished, eight of those wells will still be awaiting attention. That is a mere drop in the bucket in regard to the DEP’s list, which was updated at 2 p.m. on Sept. 30 and showed 392 in Bradford Township and 2,896 in McKean County.
“If you look at the problem as a whole, there are more than 3 million wells. We are working in six other states and have some amazing partners, but it’s overwhelming. For so many people in the climate change world, they may feel ‘There’s nothing I can do’ and there might be a feeling of despair,” Shuck said. “We said, we can make a difference, one well at a time. People can feel their support is meaningful.”
This well may be the first in Pennsylvania, but plans are in the works to only continue to work and grow in the state.
“We have a plan to scale up and build awareness of the project and problem. We have a methodology to provide financing and scale this work up,” Shuck said. “Whether you are a climate crusader or denyer, this is simply the right thing to do. We don’t focus on placing blame, we focus on action.”