Pa. investigating Marcellus well blowout

This natural gas well in Clearfield County blew out in June - a "much more serious" blowout than last week's, the DEP said.
This natural gas well in Clearfield County blew out in June - a "much more serious" blowout than last week's, the DEP said.
Posted: January 26, 2011

Pennsylvania environmental officials said Tuesday that they were investigating a blowout at a Marcellus Shale natural gas well in Tioga State Forest last week.

The state Department of Environmental Protection said specialists regained control over the Talisman Energy Inc. well in Ward Township, Tioga County, after 31/2 hours on Jan. 17, a national holiday. There were no injuries.

The DEP said the incident occurred during a hydraulic-fracturing operation. Talisman reported that 21,000 gallons of fracturing fluids and sand spewed onto the well site. The agency said the fluids appeared to have been contained on the plastic-lined well pad.

"It does not appear that any significant amount of natural gas was released, and there was no fire or explosion," the DEP said in a news release.

The department sent a notice of violation to Talisman on Monday requiring the Canadian company to submit an analysis of the incident's cause and proposed changes to its Marcellus drilling operations.

The department's public response eight days after the incident stands in stark contrast with the DEP's all-hands-on-deck reaction last June to a blowout at an EOG Resources Inc. well in Clearfield County, which spewed wastewater and gas for 16 hours before it was capped.

The DEP hired an outside consultant to assist its investigation and assessed fines of about $400,000 against EOG and a drilling contractor.

"The one last year in Clearfield was much more serious," DEP spokesman Dan Spadoni said.

Last week's incident occurred the day before Gov. Corbett was sworn in to replace Ed Rendell.

Spadoni said Talisman alerted the agency's emergency-response hotline about 90 minutes after the company lost control of the well at 12:10 p.m. By the time the DEP arrived on-site before 4 p.m., a contractor had already brought the well under control, he said.

The relatively quick response time was one reason the DEP did not consider the incident as serious as last year's blowout, Spadoni said.

CUDD Well Control Services, one of several well-emergency contractors that have located operations to Pennsylvania after last year's Clearfield County blowout, is based in Canton, Bradford County, just a few miles from the blowout site.

DEP said Talisman had been cooperating with the investigation. The agency on Tuesday permitted Talisman to resume hydraulic-fracturing operations in Pennsylvania, which the company had voluntarily suspended after the incident.

Hydraulic fracturing involves the high-pressure injection of water, chemicals, and sand into an underground well to stimulate production. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is restudying the controversial practice.


Contact staff writer Andrew Maykuth at 215-854-2947 or amaykuth@phillynews.com.

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