A look at LSU’s $3 million grant to research and plug methane-leaking oil wells


An LSU professor has been awarded a $3 million grant to research and plug the state’s 450 orphan oil wells leaking methane gas.

The project, led by petroleum engineering professor Ipsita Gupta, seeks to “find out which wells are leaking and measure their emissions before and after they are plugged,” a press release reads. Funding for the project was awarded by the state’s Department of Natural Resources on behalf of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

There are currently more than 4,500 orphan oil wells in Louisiana, meaning oil companies have abandoned them for one reason or another, namely for not making money.

According to Gupta, of the 800 wells that have already been measured, more than 180 had methane leaks― “a significant percentage,” she says.

While other states can use drones and planes to measure methane and other gas emissions, it is trickier in Louisiana, since the wetlands also emit methane, the release notes.

The grant from the Department of Natural Resources follows an ongoing effort to plug these orphan wells. More than 500 orphan wells have been plugged since January, funded by the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021.

The state’s grant to LSU for investigation and plugging these wells is in addition to the $25 million initial grant from the BIL, paired with $12.7 million in BIL funding provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Read more.