Pennsylvania Natural Gas Well Blowout Reported Stabilized

A Pennsylvania natural gas well that blew out Tuesday night while hydraulic fracturing was taking place appears to be stable, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The natural gas well, operated by Chesapeake Energy and located in Bradford County, spewed thousands of gallons of fracking fluid onto nearby land and into a tributary of Towanda Creek. Seven families who had been evacuated due to the natural gas blowout have now been allowed to return home.

The natural gas well blowout occurred Tuesday at 11:45 p.m. in rural LeRoy Township near the town of Canton. According to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the blowout was preceded by a loss of pressure in the well, indicating an equipment failure. However, it’s not yet known what exactly caused the blowout.

While the well is now stabilized, it has not been killed. An official with the DEP told the Post-Gazette that “a small amount of flow back is discharging but being collected by vacuum trucks.” Boots & Coots International Well Control, a Houston-based company hired by Chesapeake Energy, is setting up a system to pump material into the hole to kill the well. That process should be complete this afternoon.

The Post-Gazette is reporting that Chesapeake Energy didn’t report the natural gas well blowout to the DEP until 1:10 a.m. on Wednesday, though drillers are supposed to report accidents immediately. Bradford County officials were not notified until 2:00 a.m.

According to the Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania DEP records indicate that Chesapeake started drilling the well in December, and it could be one of six on the well site. “Well completion” was taking place at the time of the blowout. According to a report from WNEP, the blowout spewed “thousands of gallons of frack fluid over containment walls, through fields, personal property and farms, even where cattle continue to graze.”

Crews were not able to stop fracking fluid from running into the Towanda Creek tributary until yesterday afternoon. The creek is a state-designated trout stock fishery that eventually flows into the Susquehanna River, the Post-Gazette reported. Pennsylvania environmental officials are testing the tributary, but no fish kills have been reported.

In addition to the evacuations necessitated by the well blowout, a local farmer was told not to allow his cows drink surface water on his farm, the Post-Gazette said.

It is not known what was in the fracking fluid that spewed from the well. As we’ve reported previously, fracking fluid, which drillers inject into the ground at high pressure to release natural gas deposits, is usually made up of water, sand and chemicals, some of which are toxic.

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 sites.

Last October, Chesapeake Energy 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 companies’ nearby gas drilling operations. The lawsuit claims the alleged contamination rendered the plaintiff’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.

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