New drone-based initiative to locate abandoned gas wells, fight climate change in NY

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NEW YORK (WWTI) — New drone technology will support New York State’s initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Energy Research and Development Authority announced that new drone technology will help reduce “climate-altering” greenhouse gas emissions. The drone-base initiative will help to find and plug orphan oil and gas wells that release methane, with prioritized locations in Central and Western New York.

According to the DEC and NYSERDA, the two will use high-tech aerial surveillance equipment to locate these wells that leak methane into surrounding environments. The greenhouse gas methane, is substantially more potent than carbon dioxide; representing nearly 10% of the state’s annual emission rate. Methane is also second to carbon dioxide in its overall contribution to climate change.

NYSERDA has announced that $400 thousand in investment will support custom-built drone equipment to be used exclusively by the DEC. The drones will reveal magnetic signals produced by wells at specific GPS coordinates.

The approach will require the DEC to target areas and search for wells using old maps, information from local landowners and other data. The DEC stated that there are over two thousand wells across the state to date that may be emitting methane.

Once well locations are determined, the Department will asses public safety and environmental risks to reduce leaking.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos commented on the new initiative.

“With our partners at NYSERDA, DEC is deploying cutting-edge drone technology to map and locate orphan oil and gas wells, some of which were abandoned more than a century ago,” stated Seggos. “Plugging these wells is critical to reducing fugitive methane from escaping into the atmosphere and is further proof that New York is undertaking nation-leading actions to reduce greenhouse gases from sources – large and small – across the state.” 

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