A West Texas geyser points to the challenge of dealing with “abandoned” oil wells

Right around the beginning of the new year, a mysterious geyser suddenly appeared in West Texas, spraying saltwater 100 feet in the air.

A pump jack in the Permian Basin oil field. (Mitch Borden / Marfa Public Radio)

By Travis Bubenik

For years, environmental advocates in Texas have been sounding the alarm about what they describe as a costly – and potentially dangerous – problem in the oil patch: thousands of old, “abandoned” oil wells that can leak if they’re not properly sealed.

Earlier this month, this issue came literally roaring to the surface in West Texas, in the form of a hundred-foot tall geyser that spewed salty water onto a Crane County ranch for weeks.

Russell Gold, a reporter with Texas Monthly, has been following the story of the geyser. Gold is a longtime Texas energy reporter – formerly with the Wall Street Journal – and the author of multiple books on the industry. 

Marfa Public Radio recently caught up with Gold to talk more about the geyser and what this unique story says about the future of abandoned oil wells in Texas. Listen to the full conversation via the player above.

About Travis Bubenik

All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter
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