Cleanup of Leaking Oil Tanks on Noxxe Lease by Forest Cove Little League Fields Complete

The Texas Railroad Commission has finished the cleanup of leaking oil storage tanks on the Noxxe Oil & Gas lease by the Forest Cove Little League fields. Several tanks remain, but they are empty and not leaking. According to a Railroad Commission spokesperson, another individual wants to take over the lease. That person intends to use the remaining tanks to help operate one or two wells that can still produce.

However, regarding a new producer, Gilbert Herrera, a spokesman for the Railroad Commission said, “I haven’t seen any P4 (transfer of wells) come through on the Noxxe wells in Harris County, so far.”

Before/After Pictures of Two Worst Areas

Worst Area
Worst portion of lease on 1/20/2021 as cleanup started.
Same area 11 days later on 1/31/2021. Tanks on right have been left intentionally for now and are empty.
Second Worst Area
Second worst area on 1/1/2020.
Same area on 1/31/2021 after cleanup. Note that five storage tanks are gone.

Industrial Litter Still Clutters Site

A drilling rig, travel trailers, trucks, drill pipe and more still remain on the site. Peter Fisher, District Director for the Railroad Commission said the Commission planned to salvage/auction those items. However, he could make no promises. “Sometimes we’re successful and sometimes we’re not,” said Fisher. It depends on the market.

Abandoned pipe and more still remains on Noxxe site.

Abandoned Wells Still Not Plugged

Abandoned wells on this site have not yet been plugged. Neither have wells on the western portion of the site near Marina Drive and Aqua Vista. The Railroad Commission says that “depending on well prioritization, approvals, rig scheduling, and so on, we have an estimated time of 14 to 19 weeks” for plugging.

Note oil sheen on ponding water next to San Jacinto West Fork, upper right.
Again, note the oily sheen on the water next to these abandoned wells. The San Jacinto West Fork/Lake Houston (lower left) provide water for 2 million people.

Much Work Still Yet to Do

“All eligible orphan wells for plugging will be submitted to Austin for approval. From there and dependent on the factors mentioned before, we will plug as many of the wells as possible in that area,” said Gilbert Herrera of the Railroad Commission. 

You can view all the “orphan wells” in that area on the Railroad Commission’s GIS map. An orphan well is one left behind by a bankrupt company.

Harvey forced Noxxe out of business. The company could not afford the cleanup. However, the Pew Foundation found that “So-called “orphan” oil and gas wells, which have been abandoned by defunct companies that cannot pay to plug them, are a growing problem in many states thanks to a recent slump in energy prices that has forced marginal operators out of business.”

“Nobody knows how many orphan and abandoned drilling sites litter farms, forests and backyards nationwide. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are more than a million of them. Unplugged wells can leak methane, an explosive gas, into neighborhoods and leach toxins into groundwater,” said Pew.

How many wells are there around the Humble salt dome? Hundreds, if not thousands. See below.

Screen capture of Railroad Commission GIS database showing oil and gas wells in the Humble/Kingwood area. Note the circular outline that matches the shape of the Humble salt dome.

The Railroad Commission GIS database lets you toggle software switches to see which wells are active, dry, plugged, orphaned, etc. Hovering your cursor over a dot shows the current status of the well.

Drillers frequently find oil and gas around salt domes. Salt, which is buoyant within the earth, fractures surrounding rock. Oil and gas seep into those fractures where it collects in commercial quantities. Is there any doubt why this area was so attractive to oil companies over the years? Here’s a history of the Humble Oil field which was discovered in 1904.

Once again, thanks to State Representative Dan Huberty for working with the Railroad Commission to accelerate cleanup of this area once the problems became known.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/3/2021

1254 Days after Hurricane Harvey