If you live in Texas, your land might be sitting on an undocumented oil or water well. Sadly, this has been the fate of a lot of ranchers and landowners in West Texas as the unknown abandoned water wells have been exploding.

It’s become a very devastating situation for West Texas landowners. The attention of the United States government has been drawn to this unfortunate incident, prompting action from the Texas Railroad Commission to locate and seal these abandoned wells. 

Several Deserted Wells 

The number of wells that have exploded in Texas and other oil-bearing states in the United States in the past few years has been burdensome. This pushed the U.S. Congress to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the year 2021 distributing about $4.7 billion to be used in plugging these wells. 

Source: X/TraceyRembert

Research has shown that these recent well explosions are a result of the huge amount of water and oil wells that have been drilled all over the United States in the past century. 

Many Of These Wells Are Undocumented 

According to a report from the federal government, there might be about 117,000 orphan wells across the country. A different report from the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission believes there might be about 300,000 to 800,000 undocumented wells across the US. 

Source: X/The_AMEGroup

All this is happening because the oil and gas industries that drilled across the country about a century ago refused to keep records of these orphaned wells. 

The People Of Texas Have Suffered The Most 

As we all know, Texas is the United state’s largest oil-producing state and as a result, they’ve been battling these sudden well explosions.

Source: X/NRCSTexas

The oil and gas companies have ruined the state leaving the government to spend millions of dollars to help the people of Texas plug these orphaned wells. In 2022, Texas got approximately $25 million from the government and has gotten another $80 million this January. 

A Sad Texas Rancher Story 

In December of 2023, an unfortunate incident happened to Bill Wight, a rancher in Texas. One of these abandoned wells exploded, spilling a crazy amount of water on his land. 

Source: Texastribune

The water had so much salt that it ruined Bill’s pasture and soil. His cattle no longer had a place to graze and he ended up having to move them somewhere else. 

The Railroad Commission Quickly Came To Bills Aid 

Bill reached out to the railroad commission and they quickly got to work. Since they were the governmental body charged with plugging orphaned wells, they had no choice. 

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The commission’s spokesperson explained that Although they have sealed Bill’s well, they are aware that issues like this will keep popping up. They’ve decided to get in contact with the company that drilled the well in the first place. 

Texans Bitterly Criticized The Commission

Texans are not happy with the way the railroad commission is handling these issues. They have reported that although the commission is the body saddled with the responsibility of plugging these wells, they have mostly neglected landowners leaving them to bear the burden.

Source: X/TXStateUnivSyst

According to several critics, for the commission to help you, you’ve got to prove that your land was indeed an oil and gas-producing land or they’ll do nothing about it. 

Wights Land Was An Oil Drilling Land 

The explosion on Wright’s land was initially believed to be a random abandoned well however after testing was done it was discovered that the water contained about 0.05 milligrams of benzene confirming that the land was sometimes used for drilling purposes.

Source: Texastribune

This caused the commission to quickly help in plugging Wights well. Although Wight is happy about the progress, he’s still worried about the possibility of other undiscovered wells around the region. He also mentioned how worried he was that his grass might take years to grow and that he might not live that long anymore.

Lands In The Permian Basin

Most of these well explosions have been observed to occur on lands that are in the Permian Basin. Including Wight’s land, the Permian basin has experienced quite an alarming number of explosions recently.

Source: Texastribune

Wight’s land in the Permian basin is surrounded by a lot of exploding wells. He spoke about an explosion that occurred about 10 miles from his ranch and how the well explosion became a popular lake. 

It Gets Worse For People Living In The Permian Basin 

The story of Briggs and her family will give you an insight into how terrible things have been for those who live in this part of the world. Briggs and her family moved to their dream 900-acre ranch, but they had no idea they’d be living so close to an abandoned oil industry. 

Source: X/rtoinsider

To make matters worse William Gilligan Sewell acquired oil leases on Briggs land, founded 7S Oil and Gas LLC, and drilled about 24 wells without the family’s consent. 

An Environmental Hazard On The Briggs Property

These wells were for the most part unused and they soon started leaking oil and producing water posing a great threat to their livestock and lands.

Source: X/doescience

This got even more complicated when a university researcher discovered a potent greenhouse plant that increased methane emissions. They are potent enough to cause climate change and this is just another effect of the waking wells. 

What Is The Cause Of These Explosions? 

Although these random well explosions have been a serious cause for concern, figuring out why they keep exploding has proven to be quite a difficult task for researchers. They believe that finding out the actual cause will require further research.

Source: X/landreport

Well, some researchers believe that the water that is underneath the ground may be finding its way into the underground tunnels causing them to explode. 

Change Is Needed 

The Bill Wights and Briggs situation shows how urgent and necessary it is for the government to find a permanent solution to these abandoned and orphaned oil wells.

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This is also the perfect opportunity to shed more light on the struggles of those who live in oil-rich regions. Despite all of Briggs’ efforts to contact the railroad commission, they refused to plug the wells, leaving Briggs to deal with the leaking wells alone. 

The Commission Needs To Do Better 

Bill Wight, Briggs, and other Texan landowners and ranchers across the Permian Basin are hopeful that the railroad commission will one day take interest in their plights before the whole region becomes destroyed.

Source: Texastribune

They believe that the damages done by these exploding oil wells are enough for the commission to go on a full investigation before every farm becomes overflowing with salt water.