The Well Done Mission with  Curtis Shuck


1. The Well Done Mission  

2. Development of Industrial Hemp as a WDF cement additive  

3. Montana Technical University Research Project  

4. Some future steps for Industrial Hemp in the Oil & Gas Industry


Curtis Shuck is the Chairman of the Well Done Foundation. Its vision came together during the Summer of 2019 after visiting the legacy Kevin-Sunburst Oilfield in Northern Montana and seeing firsthand the impacts of Orphan and Abandoned Oil & Gas Wells on the industry, communities, and the environment. That encounter left such a strong impression that Curtis felt compelled to take immediate action by leaving the oil patch better than the way that he had found it. Knowing that there was a better way and wanting to develop a collaborative approach to address the Orphan Well problem on a “One Well at a Time” basis in Montana, as well as launching a National Campaign, Curtis set out organizing the Well Done Foundation as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Since 2019 the WDF, made possible through the support of many generous donors and corporate sponsors, has plugged ten (10) orphan oil & gas wells in Montana, permanently reducing harmful Methane Gas emissions (80X more harmful than Carbon Dioxide) by more than 500,000 metric tons of CO2e. 

For the past 30+ years, Curtis has passionately focused his extensive public service and private sector careers on Oil and Energy-related transportation project development, capital project delivery, and business development activities in the Pacific Northwest and the Mid‐Continent. 

After nearly 20 years in the public sector, Curtis joined Red River Oilfield Services, Inc. in Williston, North Dakota as Vice President of Business Development in February of 2015 with a focus on the strategic development of Red River’s business portfolio. His primary responsibility was the growth and diversification of its transportation and logistics programs and assets supporting the Bakken Oilfield. Curtis went on to take the role of President of Red River Oilfield Services, managing the company during the strong economic headwinds of the market downturn that drove a focus on optimization, strategic partnerships, and customer service initiatives. 


Speaker 2 (Mandi Lynn Kerr) asked Speaker 1 (Curtis Shuck), for those that dont understand, what does it mean to plug well,  why is it important and what is it emitting? 

Speaker 1: Many wells, so first of all, oil and gas is drilled into formation of various depths. And what it does is it creates a pathway to be able to extract minerals from that formation, and those minerals come in liquid and gas form. And so typically, those operators then would go in, obtain a lease from the oil and gas mineral owner. And as in the United States, many of the ownerships are what’s referred to as a split state where you’ve got a different person who owns the surface than the person who owns the minerals below. And oftentimes the mineral rights owners rights are actually superior to the surface owners, right. So in other words, because you own the minerals you still have 100% access across the surface and can build roads and pipelines and set up shop and produce. And remember, we’ve got everybody from great actors to not so great actors and they can leave any varying number of a mess and so, so these wells are drilled and, and are produced for many years, a lot of the work that we do Mandy, are in what are referred to as stripper fields or legacy oil and gas fields, which means that they’re typically kind of at the end of their useful life cycle are marginal producers that are essentially like played out if you would, or, just kind of not really producing a great level, it’s not like being in the Permian Basin, for instance, in Texas, or in the Bakken field in North Dakota, or the Marcellus Shale, back in Pennsylvania, where if there was really a an opportunity, economically, somebody would come in and scoop up the asset. Well, these are not really desirable financially. So oftentimes, while they may have originally been developed by larger or major, even oil companies, many of these wells that we’re working on now are literally 100 years old, we just plugged in Pennsylvania and were drilled in the 1860s. Some of these are quite old. And finding the records on the wells are difficult, and understanding what’s really happening subsurface, but, once a company, these wells trade hands multiple times, at the end of the day, a lot of the wells in the areas that were working were once are last owned by kind of mom and pop oil companies. Think of mom paw cattle out there running around, and that’s, again, some are better than others in terms of their housekeeping and the way that they do business. But, so once these wells then are sort of left unattended, and sometimes through bankruptcy, or any kind of bad luck situation.

It’s a commodity market, and, obviously enjoying it and upcycle right now, but sure enough, it’s going to come crashing back down, just like it always does. And so those assets get turned over to the state, they have nowhere else to go. So, by default, states become the responsible parties, and oftentimes, especially in these legacy assets, there may have been a certain level of financial assurance or a bond that was associated with that, but, think of it Well, that was drilled in the early 1900s, it may have posted the bond, which at that time was big money, a couple 100 bucks, obviously, is not even a drop in the bucket to really make things right, in terms of plugging in the DataMan. So, what happened is that there has been this huge unfunded liability that the states have ended up with by the fall but really no fault of their own. And, certain states have various programs where, they’ll get other operators to participate in funding avenues for helping abandoned wells, but what can happen is that our elected officials have other bright shiny objects that require and, I’m sure are very legitimate projects that require funding so it’s easy if you got a bucket of money that’s where you need to go for and so again, it’s been a difficult challenge. But what’s happening now and in many of these assets that are aging and are derelict are sort of on uncapped , they’re starting to leak methane gas, are starting to leak oil to the surface, and have water and gas and or water and oil flowing out of them. And it’s a significant problem. The WELL DONE Foundation’s primary focus has been on air emissions or or greenhouse gas emissions. That’s really kind of our sweet spot, if you would, but we often find projects that have kind of a combination of multiple things, they’ve got oil present, they’ve got greenhouse gas present. Some of these wells like we’re working in now here in Louisiana, as you can imagine, have had water quality issues. I mean, literally, we’re working in an area referred to as a black Bayou right now. And, you can imagine some of the wildlife sensitivities and the water quality issues that we’re facing. So yeah, it can get pretty complex pretty quickly. But at the end of the day, it’s really about putting an engineered solution into the wellbore. That stops the transmission of fluid or gas from the formation to the surface.

How are they filled

Speaker 2 asked how they are filled and what the process looks like.

Speaker 1 answered by saying the constant in the process is there is nothing that is ever the same. He said that as they study these wealth, it was interesting to know that each one has their very own personality. Everything from the amount of gas or fluid  that they are emitting. 

What’s happening down hole in terms of the pressure or the temperature. But essentially, what we do in our process is we go through, and we identify wells that are sort of in that orphan space, and we look to qualify them into our program. And our criteria for qualification really is around, Ken is a well emitting greenhouse gasses or flowing oil to the surface. And then what is it that we need to do to put an engineered plugin and an engineer plug, in many cases is not necessarily a mechanical device. Now, there are some that use a mechanical device to help to isolate zones between freshwater aquifers. But primarily, the work that we’re doing, again, tends to be on what’s referred to as conventional wells, which is a vertical Well, these are anywhere from anywhere from 1000 to 2500 feet in depth. And so what we use is a cement design, that, that we use to use as a plugin component, the material to actually pump down into the wellbore. And, and by doing that, it was a little bit differently, but differently configured. But we have teams that we work with across the country where we design a specific plug, that plug then goes to the regulatory agency for review and approval. Oftentimes, and this is all, based on industry standards, so we work very closely with the American Petroleum Institute. And this is like a tried and true process and material that’s been going on for 100 years, we’re obviously we’ll talk a little bit about,, some of those improvements that we’re doing to the mix design, now enhancing that through the use of industrial hemp. But so we develop this, this cement plug. And sometimes we’ll actually be putting in a spacer using bentonite clay, or other gel products. And oftentimes, that is to help to create a more robust or interstitial plug to keep gas from migrating not only up the wellbore itself, but then also, it can migrate from outside of the wellbore around the outside of the casing. So we’ve got several designs that we use, but at the at the core of it is really it’s the it’s the cement product that we place in the wellbore to take up that that void and also extend beyond the casing, which oftentimes again, a well is 100 years old, there have had lots of corrosion issues due to the nature of the gas or the nature of the oil or the saltwater. And so again, we want that plug material to be able to not only stay in the casing itself, but to permeate outside of the casing to create that better barrier so that gas won’t make its way to the surface.

The Use of Hemp in Filling Wells

Speaker 2 (Mandi Lynn Kerr): So, let’s talk about hemp. This is the most exciting part, and I’m curious what improvement and difference there is when using hemp. 

Speaker 1 (Curtis Shuck): So, the use of cement and hemp in our cement program, for me, has been kind of an interesting, an interesting discovery. When we first met, we plugged on Earth Day back in 2020, again in the midst of the pandemic and mass craziness and full lockdowns across the country. And we’re out plugging wells, good news is it’s out in the middle of the country in the open air. So we’re pretty, we’re able to execute that safely. But as we started our first work in the plug design itself, the first stage of plugging, is referred to as the bottom plug. And the bottom plug is kind of a great unknown because many of these wells as I said, you don’t really have great records on what the well was like when they first drilled it. 9And then when they completed it, what type of activities they did there, and then what has taken place as the operator has potentially been enhancing the well through either, the use of things like nitroglycerin. Many of these old wells are called shot hole wells, which means a drill the well they set the casing, and then they had some guy running around named Nitro, Charlie, literally, some of these wells had as many as 200 quarts of nitroglycerin that were exploded down in the surface, or down below the surface in the formation to was kind of the early days of hydraulic fracturing, to open up this pathway for the oil and gas to be able to flow into the wellbore. So you never really know what you’re dealing with there. And sometimes, you end up with what we refer to affectionately as a glory hole, which is some massive cavern that you really don’t have great eyes on. So you kind of run in blind, and start putting cement down into this lower plug in a perfect world, you are typically for our design, in fact, maybe what we’ll do is we’ll calculate the anticipated volume. And then we’ll give 100% extra on top of that, just to make sure that we’ve got enough and so but there are times when we’ll set a bottom plug and we’ll come back the next day. And this demand has likely found its way into the formation. 

And we have to sort of rinse and repeat. We’ve had a couple of wells we had one well we were on. Actually it was this yours well, we were actually on that well for 21 days. And it drank a lot of cement on us and so that’s where the use of this industrial hemp is really critical when and what we use it for is called Lost circulation material. And what it does because the cement that we put into the wellbore it’s not like you think about coming in the cement mixer truck to your ready mix truck to your house. This is essentially just cement, Portland cement and water. So it’s very viscous. It’s a very slurry-like material that likes to find its equilibrium quickly so it doesn’t necessarily like the stand up. It likes to just run flat and so what we do then is we use the industrial hemp product and it’s a it’s a hemp heard and huge shout out to the team at IMD hemp who had been working with us on this Montana made product that we’ve been debuting across the country here with great success and what that product does is it actually helps then that cement to have some substance to it the hemp what it does is it helps to bridge that product running into the formation as well as the product of course when it hydrates then starts to swell up and so it absorbs the moisture in its surroundings. 

So it will have a little bit of swell. So not only does it help the fibers help to create a bridge from it entering into the formation, it also swells which builds if you would the volume of the product. So ultimately we use the end So hemp for in this application is primarily in that bottom plug to get that cement if you want to stand up and come up into the casing or up into the wellbore. And it’s interesting,  as I mentioned that we did back in 2020 and April of 2020, we had a standard mix design and the mix design called for a lost circulation material. And so I went and sourced the Lost circulation material, you’ll love this. The Lost circulation material was called sell flake. And sell Flake is exactly what it sounds like. It’s literally broken up pieces of cellophane plastic that you put into the mix. When I was in North Dakota, Red River oilfield services we sold many varieties of lost circulation material everything from walnuts shells, I mean look like grass clippings to literally cut up dollar bills and old currency then they would shred and put in. So in looking at the flake material I was, number one a little bit disappointed in the cost of the material because they thought a lot of that, plastic bags, but it was also very difficult to source. It wasn’t something that you just don’t run down as hardware and pick it up right when you need it. And so we started exploring into this hemp world. I met Ken and Morgan Elliot through some mutual friends there and kind of in this discussion, we decided, hey, let’s give this let’s give this hemp a whirl. Well, we did the next couple of wells and really found it to work. Fantastic. It was easy to work with, if you spilled it on the ground, you didn’t have to worry about picking up all of these little pieces of plastic that were blowing all over the countryside.

And it performed outstandingly. And so one of the things that we started doing is we’re introducing this into our mix, of course, we had to get it approved by the regulatory authorities. And so what we did then is we entered into an agreement with Montana Technical University to actually start performing some studies with us on our behalf. So we paid for a study at Montana Tech, and the outcome of the study or the basis, I should say, if the study was really to show against the industry standards, that the use of these varying degrees did not degrade the performance characteristics of the cement material. So in other words, and there’s various ways of measuring that mostly it’s in the compressive strength. And so what we did is we entered into into a research project with Montana Tech we had one of our Students there that ran the program for us, we kind of gave them these parameters, which was, essentially, look, we want you to put as much HEMP into this mix as you can until until we lose our compressive strength. And so, that’s what we did. And we came up sort of with this parameter than of how much hemp we could put into a mix, and still be able to still be able to maintain that strength. And then of course, the other side of that. And that’s great, because that’s in the lab. The other issue is over in the field side. And so what we did then is we took that individual and his name is Rob Braden, who was a graduate student from Montana Tech. And in fact, many of your viewers may have had an opportunity to meet Rob at the hemp event there in Fort Benton this summer. He was there and was presenting on our behalf while I was back working, of course, but had to give the kids to throw him a bone and let him get out there and participate with the hempsters. 

But so what we did was that we felt that it was important to take it from the lab to the field. So we actually hired Rob as an intern for the summer and his job, amongst all of the other duties of measuring methane and and putting up with my crazy all summer, was to be our field representative for the sort of the quality control engineer for the mixing of Hemp. With the roughnecks, of course, the roughnecks were a little sort of tough to bring along on this journey, they weren’t really loving, that they were using hemp in this mix. And, it was something that they had never really used before. And as I mentioned earlier, remember the oil and gas industry is very traditional, very relational. And so anytime you’re introducing a new product into the industry, you really have to sort of, kind of walk people through it and have some patience and provide those boots on the ground, to make sure that people are comfortable with how the product is being used. Because again, and I’ve seen this with our crews, not only in Montana, but in Pennsylvania recently that left to their own devices. And when I was a young project manager, I had a salty old mentor that told me Look, your contractors don’t do what you expect, they do what you inspect, so you better make sure that you got your eyes on him. And sure enough, if you turn your back, the cement will go down the hole, and the HEMP is sitting right where you left it right. And it’s like, why didn’t you put the headphones,, anyway, so through all of those programs, and so again, having a QC engineer that’s representing the foundation is part of our program now, so that we make sure the hand goes in. But the other side of that, and this was sort of that live and learn thing is that, we found out that while we can put a certain percentage of hemp in the laboratory, it doesn’t necessarily work in the pumping unit, because we need to be able to pump it. And so one of the things that we found is kind of sort of through this shock therapy is that if we put too much Hemp in all at once, it’s going to suck all the moisture out of the cement, and we’re going to start breaking stuff. And so of course our pumpers really appreciated us then that day as we are having to tear the equipment apart and Chip everything out. So we’ve had some we’ve had some interesting lessons through the process, but we’ve got it down to a very refined program now and we’ve been embellishing on that we’re we’ve got a system now where we’re pre hydrating the hemp before we actually introduce it into the cement so that we lose kind of that shock factor. 

But ultimately, what we’re doing is we’re adding as much HEMP as we can, and part of the reason for that, of course, it’s great material to use and it performs outstandingly in the formation, but it’s also to take and try and reduce the impact of the cement that we’re using in our plugging design. And what happens is through the development of the methodology for carbon credits for the methane we’re stopping greenhouse gas emissions that we are eliminating as part of this work. We get hit on our own accounting for the amount of cement that we use, and it’s almost like a one for one ratio, so for every tonne of cement we use, we get a deduction of a ton off of offset, because it’s just so carbon intensive to produce the cement. So our thought was, well, let’s use hemp. That is another added benefit of using hemp is the fact that it reduces the carbon footprint of the work that we’re doing also. So it’s really a win-win associated with introducing HEMP into the plugin design. So with that said, now we’ve got industrial hemp approved in Montana, it’s approved in Pennsylvania, we’re just getting ready to do our first plugs here. Like I said, I’m sitting in Shreveport right now, up in the black Bayou of Louisiana, here before the end of the year. And, so we’re starting to see this become more and more of a thing on the plugging side. And, and this is not, I guess what’s important is this approval of the cement admix or the hempered, is something that can be used not only in the plugging and abandonment of orphan oil wells, but can also be used in other cementing oilfield cementing as well. And whether it’s  cementing the outside of the casing of a production string. So there’s lots of application in the oil and gas industry for this industrial hemp. And so that’s part of what we’re working on next is the marketing of that product and the introduction of that product into the market. Of course, like I mentioned earlier, based on our lessons learned, it means that we’ve got to have field representatives and technical engineers on location with these folks to be able to kind of make sure we keep everybody going down the same road.

Volunteer Program

Mandi Lynn Kerr asked Curtis Shuck how people get involved.

Speaker 1 (Curtis Shuck): Well on foundation, we do have a volunteer program. There is a pathway on the website to be able to contact us and sign up in the volunteer world, we’ve got a questionnaire that goes out to folks that show interest so that we can understand where you’re at, sort of what your areas of interests are, and start to pair you up. We actually have an orientation, then that we run our volunteers through. In fact, we just graduated our first classes several weeks ago, so we’ve got the first graduating class. We’ve got a diverse group, doctors, lawyers, school teachers, retirees, active duty, folks all over the place. What we’re doing is we’re creating that database and providing opportunities for folks to get involved in these various areas that we’re working on. But as we’re working in the East, as we’re working in the south now, we’ll have more and more opportunities, and we’ve got several categories. Some of those are in sort of the front end measuring and monitoring. Of course, everybody can participate through social media by helping to share our posts and move those along. But then also we certainly have slots available during the plugging activity for people to show up and check out. We’ve had folks from the hemp industry who have participated with us in the plugging and they’ve got to be right there hands on putting the hempered end of the cement mix with us.  One of the bigger opportunities is that when we finish plugging in on the surface remediation or the surface restoration side, that’s a little safer, a little easier to manage and more conducive to a group setting. We’ve had several of those where we’ve had companies come in and use it kind of as a team building event. So, lots of opportunities. We got several categories. So if you have folks who are interested, encourage them to go to the site and contact Catherine Bobbitt, who’s our volunteer coordinator.

Future Products

Mandi Lynn Kerr asked Curtis Shuck: with all these other products and opportunities from the hemp industry, especially into the oil and gas, what future products are you going to get it going to be playing with? Where do you see the opportunity for the Weldon Foundation to really dabble in other products?

Curtis Shuck answered: Definitely on the hemp side, looking at variations to the lost circulation material that we’re using right now. The other aspect that we’re working on  is in some of the completion aspects. So even in sort of the more Standard Oil and Gas space, where they’re using various products in the hydraulic fracturing side. So this is an area where we’re starting to work with some of the hemp oil, some of the seed oils in that space. Obviously, the fiber side is fairly defined, but we think that there’s going to be a tremendous opportunity. And what we love now is the fact that we’ve got a production facility fairly close to us out in Fort Benton with high end hemp is we’re talking with that team now about  these various research products or projects and the ability to CO brand and CO market and move into that space. We’ve got some ambitious goals, as far as, kind of working with us, folks. And the key is, it’s awesome to have that lab there. And then of course, I mentioned the Montana Tech, School of Engineering, petroleum engineering that’s available for us with their full materials lab and to really be able to do some additional testing.

How much hemp is used

Mandi Lynn Kerr: How many pounds or tons of hemp are you able to put into a well or a plasmid?

Curtis Shuck: A lot of times will vary depending on the particular depth of the well. But if we can put a couple of 100 pounds into a wellbore, then that’s a pretty significant achievement. We need to keep the product in a form that is familiar with the oil and gas industry, we end up then specifically packaging it in such a way that it’s look and feel is similar to other stuff that they’re using. So we’re not introducing some new system, because again, they’re not the guys that you really want to do that with, because they don’t like it. So we have to be very cautious about that. So to answer your question, a couple 100 pounds is good? Well, the key is having engineering staff on site there to make sure that it’s going in at the rate that it needs to go in.

Future of the Hemp Industry in Oil and Gas

Mandi Lynn Kerr: Talk to me about the future of the industrial hemp industry for oil and gas.

Shuck: I think there’s a huge emerging opportunity there. Part of what can happen now is the discussion around the environmental benefit of using hemp, so the carbon capture component of hemp itself. So in other words, by using this material, what are we offsetting by using that and so one of the areas that we obviously are working closely on is, developing methodologies. Then for developing carbon credits, for the cultivation and processing of hemp, it’s how we preserve kind of enough value if you would love those carbon credits, all the way through the chain? It’s interesting, because of course, as you can imagine, in that continuum, everybody wants their cut, like the farmer would say, Well, I want it all because I’m farming, right? And then of course, you’ve got the producers who are like, Well, wait a minute, I’m producing this material and refining it. And so I need my part. I guess where I’m going with all this is, we need to make sure that we preserve a portion of that, to give back to the oil and gas industry, right. So in other words, in order for it to be desirable to them. Because they’re literally faced with hundreds of products that are available. So how do we differentiate and how do we stand out then as this viable product, is we’ve got to be able to give something back. And so that in my opinion, is going to be one of those differentiators where we can and that’s what we are doing as part of our product mixes, we’re actually offering them a certain number of of our own trademark products called a climate benefit unit, that’s our own carbon credit, if you would, as part of that. So you buy a 12 pound bag of our lost circulation material, and we’ll throw in one ton of offset. So, but that certainly is going to be an area because now we’ve seen this large discussion happening in the oil and gas industry about transition about ESG focus within the industry about cleaning up their own house if you would, so the utilization of this material is critical. And so it’s not only in the downhole applications, but it can also be used in things like spill response or sediment control. And so there’s lots of applications that were industrial hemp then can enter into that industry, in a safe space, and really start to build that confidence or that in a failure parity in the industry.

Soil remediation

Mandi Lynn Kerr: Are you doing any research to determine what has been remediated from that crop’s soil?

Curtis Shuck: That’s one of the discussion points as well in terms of looking at using that to help sort of regenerate the soil. We do some work as part of our surface restoration. But there’s this particular 40 acre site, in fact, it had about four acres so about 10% of that track was impacted by either the pump jack locations or the evaporation pit or the tank batteries. So we’ve got quite a bit of restoration work that the crews are actually working on right now up there. And so we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to use that hemp crop up this year as a way to help to juice out soil backup. So we don’t have data on that yet,  but this is going to be fun.

Brackish Water

Brandon asked a question and he said:

Are you curious about brackish water, water in wells, and whether they are used to clean water sources?

Curtis Schuck replied and said: Sometimes when we’re cleaning a well out to plug it or when we’re even pumping cement down into the wellbore, we will displace a certain amount of fluid in the hall. And we certainly don’t have a fluid management program where we take that material and we then dispose of it. But we have seen some wells that are producing water. In fact,, I just received a note today from the regulators here in Louisiana, of a well that they’ve got that is flowing water and gas at the same time, what happens is that that, again, that casing will deteriorate and perforate. And so it starts to pick up, are occasions from sort of this formation from the oil bearing layer. So, yeah, managing water is a critical component. We’ve got several sites in Pennsylvania that have some of the very same issues. And so that’s where water quality can really become a big issue. Those tend to be obviously more complex projects for us. And so we ended up bringing in more players. To the team, we ended up involving the water quality regulatory agencies and on top of the oil and gas folks. So I don’t know if I answered your question there. But it’s absolutely a focus and a concern. We try to flesh out on the due diligence side, before we end up with hip waders on.

How much does hemp reduce cement use in plugging wells

John Carpenter asked a question and said. What aperture size range can you bridge by incorporating hemp into your cement mix? How much less cement do you need to plug a well if you use your hemp additive to reduce loss circulation?

Curtis Schuck replied and said: We’ve got some material and maybe probably the best way to manage that would be offline, we can supply with some of the details on the size range of the material we’re using, and then the amount of material that we’re using, per ton of cement, then if he would, so I see your question there, I think that’s probably going to be the best way to handle that. And I’d love to, I’d love to address that with you and and talk you through that.

Friends of Hemp is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to awareness and advocacy of hemp.