Chesapeake Energy has suspended hydraulic fracturing at its natural gas wells in Pennsylvania, following Tuesday night’s well blowout in Bradford County. The suspension will remain in effect until Chesapeake determines what caused Tuesday’s accident.
The well blowout near the town of Canton allowed thousands of gallons of chemical-laced fracking fluid to spew from the damaged well. The spilled fluid breached its containment, and spilled out onto adjacent farmland and into a tributary of Towanda Creek. Seven families were evacuated for hours after the blowout, and a local farmer was told not to allow cows to drink from water on his farm.
Yesterday, Chesapeake said it had finally “stabilized” the natural gas well. Though it wasn’t completely killed, crews were able to slow the leaking fluid and gas, and the flow of fluid into the stream has ended. The final steps to seal the well should take place today, barring any further problems.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is testing nearby water sources for contamination. Results should be back next week, but an agency spokesperson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that field tests conducted so far had not raised any concerns.
While the cause of the blowout is still being investigated, the Associated Press is reporting that a breach originated in a wellhead connection. Until the cause is determine, Chesapeake has suspended well completion operations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. According to a Reuters report, well completion, which involves fracking, is work to prepare a site for production after drilling has been completed.
Chesapeake Energy, one of Pennsylvania’s biggest shale gas producers, has faced other problems in Bradford County in the past. Last October its subsidiary, Chesapeake Appalachia, was named in a lawsuit filed by a Bradford County woman who claimed her water well has been contaminated due to the companiesâ€™ nearby gas drilling operations. The lawsuit claims the alleged contamination rendered the plaintiffâ€™s well water unusable and caused her personal injury.
The plaintiff in that lawsuit is being represented by the national law firm of Parker Waichman Alonso LLP, along with the Law Office of Michael Gleeson, Neblett, Beard & Arsenault and the Becnel Law Firm, LLC.
According to the Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania DEP records show that Chesapeake Energy has been fined seven times for a total of $61,101 over the last three years. Five of those fines were for problems at wells in Bradford County, three of which were for different types of spills on well si