Crane County, TX – An undocumented oil and gas well in Crane County was found flowing to the surface two weeks ago. Commission Shift Executive Director, Virginia Palacios, saw photos and videos of the well shared by neighboring landowner, Schuyler Wight, before last week’s December 13th Railroad Commission (RRC) Open Meeting.
“The well was flowing and boiling rapidly at the surface. It could be the next Boehmer Lake,” said Palacios.
The Railroad Commission has responded and is working to control and plug the well. The leaking well is reportedly located about one mile from another undocumented oil and gas well dubbed the “CT-112” which blew out like a geyser in January of 2022. Locals suspect the extreme pressure from the CT-112 caused subsurface damage, breaking through at the new leaking well.
The Railroad Commission issues hundreds of Class II underground injection well permits throughout the state each year, mostly concentrated in Permian Basin counties like Crane. About one quarter of the wells are used for disposing of chemicals and saltwater produced along with oil and gas, also called “produced water.” But about three-quarters of the wells are used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), a process attracting new scrutiny because of its connection to carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS).
Palacios believes that injection wells in the Permian Basin have been causing the well blowouts. “These well leaks and blowouts tell me that the Railroad Commission doesn’t have any idea how to ensure that these Class II injection wells are isolated from underground sources of drinking water.”
The federal government recently increased tax credits for operators who inject carbon dioxide (CO2) underground for the purposes of EOR. The new tax credits are expected to draw a boom to the area in both carbon dioxide injection and oil production. Carbon dioxide injection can cause groundwater acidification, and a CO2 pipeline incident caused by Denbury Gulf Coast Pipeline in Mississippi caused dozens of people to go to the hospital, with some experiencing long-term health impacts of hypoxia.
On Sunday, the Railroad Commission secured a No-Fly-Zone from the FAA over the site of the latest leaking well in Crane County, which they also did when the geyser-like blowout occurred in 2022. “The Railroad Commission appears to be more concerned with preventing drone photographs of their activities than they are with public safety. These no fly zones are obstructing freedom of speech,” said Palacios.
A 2021 report by Commission Shift and Texans for Public Justice found that saltwater disposal well operators were top donors to Railroad Commissioner campaigns.
Commission Shift is a Texas-based nonprofit building public support to hold the Railroad Commission of Texas accountable to its mission in a shifting energy landscape. We educate and organize a wide array of Texans to build support for changes at the Railroad Commission that improve the agency’s function, transparency, and accountability to the many people and places impacted by the oil and gas industry.