By Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Saturday, June 05, 2010
Natural gas and drilling fluids escaped for hours from an out-of-control Marcellus shale well in a remote area of Clearfield County before it was finally capped about noon Friday, prompting a state investigation to find out what went wrong.
The well, operated in Lawrence Township by EOG Resources, formerly known as Enron, stopped spraying about 16 hours after the company lost control of it while preparing to extract gas from hydrofractured shale on Thursday evening.
The well released natural gas 75 feet into the air and fracking fluid onto the ground.
No one was hurt, and there are no houses within a mile of the well, which is in northern Clearfield County, near Interstate 80.
But John Hanger, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the incident was serious and could have been “catastrophic” to life and property in the area.
“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,” he said.
Emergency responders cut off electric service in the area, and the Federal Aviation Administration restricted the airspace above the well below 1,000 feet within a 3 nautical-mile radius. That restriction remained in effect until further notice, according to DEP.
The agency learned of the leak at about 1:30 a.m. Friday after being informed by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and said it immediately dispatched its emergency response team and its oil and gas staff to the site.
DEP spokesman Dan Spadoni said Friday that polluted water had not reached any waterways.
Mr. Hanger said his agency would “aggressively” investigate the incident “to see where things went wrong and what enforcement action is necessary.”
A spokeswoman for EOG Resources said in an e-mail that a service rig operated by a contractor was in the final stages of completing the well when the “control issue” occurred.
Torsten Ove: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1510.