The Well Done Foundation, started this year by former Red River Oil manager Curtis Schuck, has attracted another high-profile partner for its efforts to plug and reclaim abandoned and orphaned wells.
The new partner is noted equestrian apparel designer Kerri Kent, founder of Kerrits Performance Equestrian Apparel. Kent is joining the foundation’s board of directors and has adopted an orphaned oil well in Montana’s Toole County. She is funding its plugging and restoration through the foundation.
“I wanted to go through the physical process of adopting and plugging the well and restoring the surface environment,” she said. “I had no idea how toxic the situation surrounding these open wells is. The open hole in the ground, the smell, and the invisible gas can’t be described in a photograph.”
The well she adopted was Bluhm #14 in Northern Montana’s Oil Patch. It was drilled in September of 1934 and produced crude until the company fell on hard times and abandoned it in 1994, leaving the responsibility for it to the state of Montana.
Plugging the well will eliminate 5,700 metric tonnes of carbon emissions, which is equal to removing 1,425 automobiles from the road.
In addition to her sponsorship and seat on the board, Kent plans to be very involved in the foundation’s ongoing initiative to plug abandoned wells throughout the United States, and plans to spread the word to colleagues and friends throughout the fashion industry, which she said emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined.
“Kerri is not only aligned with our mission of conservation and leaving the Earth a better place, she’s deeply connected in a huge industry that can really make a positive difference,” Shuck said. “The fact that she’s both joined our board and is also adopting a well shows her commitment but also sets an example that hopefully inspires other high-profile players to join our project.”
Kent founded Kerrits in 1986 after she was unable to find women’s athletic apparel that she felt both fit and flattered her. She was at the time a windsurfer and was so frustrated with bathing suits that didn’t fit right that she bought $50 worth of fabric from a Jantzen outlet store to make one herself.
Before long, she was making them herself and selling them from her gear bag on the Hood River beach to a retail store she opened with Michele McAlpine. The suits soon attracted national attention, as well as the attention of an equestrian company CEO who tapped Kent to design clothing for women who share another of her passions, riding horses. These clothes started with simple packs of carrot seeds as hangtags, and thus the name Kerrits Performance Equestrian Apparel.
After spending more than three decades leading her company, Kent was seeking a new and meaningful new chapter for her career.
“I have been friends with Curtis for a long time and love what the Well Done Foundation is doing,” she said. “The apparel and textile industry needs opportunities to improve its carbon footprint and environmental practices. I’m excited to use my experience and connections to help the Well Done Foundation find innovative ways to help bring sustainable practices to my former industry.”
Schuck started the Well Done Foundation after noticing large numbers of abandoned wells on the drive between Shelby and Bozeman. They were just a few of 200 such wells in the state, all legacy wells that predate more modern bonding requirements for the management of oil and gas wells that have reached the end of their economic life.
With a long history in the oilfield, Schuck realized that each of those abandoned wells is still emitting literally tons of greenhouse gases like methane. But what he didn’t realize, until he began to investigate more deeply, is just how prevalent the problem of abandoned well is.
Across the nation, there are more than 3 million orphaned wells, he said.
“That’s a crazy number for these,” he said. “As I started to investigate further, looking at what the wells are emitting in terms of methane and greenhouse gases, it’s just a crazy amount. So that is where the vision for Well done was born.”
The foundation’s first few wells were plugged in Montana as a pilot to help demonstrate what the program can do. Lessons learned from those wells will help inform a template for dealing with the issue in other states.
“So far, we’ve had nothing but a great reception and success with local government and state government and surface owners,” Schuck said. “It’s a good deal for everyone. It saves the state money, solves problems for the surface owner, and it’s great for the environment.”
Kerrits is now the second partner announced by the Foundation. The first was with Pacific Steel and Recycling, which has agreed to to purchase, through the Well Done Foundation, one Climate Benefit Unit for $7 for every ton of recycled steel brought through the Shelby rail terminal from the Northern Montana Oil Patch from now through September.
Proceeds from that effort will be used to help fund the plugging of more abandoned wells through the Well Done Foundation.