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Index > United States of America > Pennsylvania > Blowout ‘Could Have Been a Catastrophic Incident’

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California Lags in Fracking Regulations

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Fracking in Michigan Potential Impact on Health, Environment, Economy

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Pennsylvania Fracking

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Health impacts of Marcellus shale gas drilling

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COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Dept. of Environmental Protection
Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120

Independent Report Faults Clearfield County Gas Well Operators for June 3 Blowout DEP Outlines Proper Procedures for all Marcellus Drilling Firms

DEP Secretary Says Blowout ‘Could Have Been a Catastrophic Incident’


07/13/2010 HARRISBURG -- Untrained personnel and the failure to use proper well control procedures were the principal causes of a June 3 natural gas well blowout in Clearfield County, according to an independent investigation that was released today by the Department of Environmental Protection.

DEP Secretary John Hanger said the blowout, which allowed natural gas and wastewater to escape from the well uncontrollably for 16 hours, was the result of failures by the well’s operator, EOG Resources.

The company and its contractor, C.C. Forbes LLC, lost control of the well while performing post-fracturing well cleanout activities.

“The blowout in Clearfield County was caused by EOG Resources and its failure to have proper barriers in place.

This incident was preventable and should never have occurred,” said Hanger, who added that EOG Resources has been ordered to take nine corrective actions; C.C. Forbes ordered to take six corrective actions and both companies were fined more than $400,000, collectively.

Following a 40-day suspension of operations in Pennsylvania, EOG Resources and C.C. Forbes were permitted to resume all well completion activities.

EOG Resources, formerly known as Enron Oil & Gas Co., operates approximately 297 active wells in Pennsylvania, 139 of which are in the Marcellus Shale formation.

The report was compiled by John Vittitow, whom DEP hired to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into all aspects of EOG’s drilling operation based on his respected reputation in the industry as an experienced petroleum engineer.

The investigation was conducted alongside, but independently of, DEP’s investigation.

“Make no mistake, this could have been a catastrophic incident,” Hanger said.

“Had the gas blowing out of this well ignited, the human cost would have been tragic, and had an explosion allowed this well to discharge wastewater for days or weeks, the environmental damage would have been significant.”

In light of the investigation’s findings, Hanger said his agency has written each company drilling into the Marcellus Shale to ensure they understand proper well construction and emergency notification procedures.

The letter stated that:

• A snubbing unit, which prevents pipes from ejecting uncontrollably from a well, may be used to clean out the composite frac plugs and sand during post-fracturing (post-frac) if coil tubing is not an option.

• A minimum of two pressure barriers should be in place during all post-frac cleanout operations.

• Any blowout preventer equipment should be tested immediately after its installation and before its use. Records of these tests should be kept on file at the well site or with the well site supervisor.

• A sign with DEP’s 24-hour emergency telephone number and local emergency response numbers, including 911 and the county communications center, should be posted prominently at each well site.

• At least one well site supervisor who has a current well control certification from a recognized institution should be on location during post-frac cleanout operations. These certifications should be in possession at all times.

• A remote-controlled, independently powered blowout preventer unit, which allows workers to control what’s happening on the rig at a safe distance, must be located a minimum of 100 feet from the well and operational during all post-frac cleanout operations.

The fines assessed to EOG Resources and C.C. Forbes—for $353,400 and $46,600, respectively—will cover the cost of DEP’s response to the incident and the investigation. In addition to the financial penalties, DEP ordered EOG Resources to implement practices and take nine corrective actions to avoid a repeat of this incident. C.C. Forbes was ordered to implement similar practices and to take six corrective actions.

To review a copy of the complete investigation report and related documents, visit website and click on the report graphic under the “Latest News” tab.

Media Release: COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA

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DEP Plans Thorough Investigation in to Marcellus Shale Well Blowout in Clearfield County

EOG Resources Well Released Fracking Fluid, Natural Gas for 16 Hours


06/4/2010 HARRISBURG -- Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said today that his agency intends to investigate aggressively the circumstances surrounding a blowout at a Marcellus Shale natural gas well in Lawrence Township, Clearfield County, and take the appropriate enforcement action.

At approximately 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 3, the operators of the well, which is owned by EOG Resources, Inc., lost control of it while preparing to extract gas after hydrofracturing the shale.

As a result, the well released natural gas and flowback frack fluid onto the ground and 75 feet into the air. The well was eventually capped around noon on June 4.

“The event at the well site could have been a catastrophic incident that endangered life and property,” said Hanger.

“This was not a minor accident, but a serious incident that will be fully investigated by this agency with the appropriate and necessary actions taken quickly.

“When we arrived on scene, natural gas and frack fluid was flowing off the well pad and heading toward tributaries to Little Laurel Run and gas was shooting into the sky, creating a significant fire hazard.

That’s why emergency responders acted quickly to cut off electric service to the area.

“Right now, we’re focused on limiting any further environmental damage, but once that work is complete, we plan to aggressively look at this situation and see where things went wrong and what enforcement action is necessary.

If mistakes were made, we will be certain to take steps to prevent similar errors from happening again.”

DEP learned of the leak at approximately 1:30 a.m. on Friday after it was informed by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. DEP immediately dispatched its Emergency Response and Oil and Gas program staff to the site.

PEMA, which elevated its activation level to coordinate resources among multiple state agencies, also worked with PennDOT to initiate an airspace restriction above the well, which the Federal Aviation Administration authorized on a temporary basis earlier today.

The restriction prohibits flights at and below 1,000 feet of ground level within a three nautical mile radius of the well site. The restriction is in effect until further notice.

The EOG well pad is located in a rural area near the Penfield/Route 153 exit of Interstate 80 in northwestern Clearfield County.

Three other wells on the same pad that have been drilled and fractured remain plugged and are not in danger.

EOG Resources, formerly known as Enron Oil & Gas Co., operates approximately 265 active wells in Pennsylvania, 117 of which are in the Marcellus Shale formation.

Media Release: COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA

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