Energy. Environment. Economy.

Tioga County Methane Migration: Onetime Geyser Being Brought Under Control

Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Shell is flaring off wells to reduce gas pressure in Tioga County

(Wellsboro, Tioga County) — A geyser of methane-infused water has been reduced to waist-height, as Shell Appalachia works to contain mysterious methane migration near a cluster of three of its natural gas wells in southeastern Tioga County.

The geyser was shooting water more than thirty feet into the air at one point, but Tioga County Emergency Services Coordinator Denny Colegrove said it was down to less than two feet by yesterday evening.

Shell is flaring off nearby wells in order to reduce underground gas pressure. “We’re seeing that brings down – it depressurizes – the gas that could be contributing to migration in the immediate area,” said Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh.

In addition to the roadside geyser – or former geyser – methane has been detected bubbling up in nearby streams, and a private water well has overflown. A private landowner first detected a methane problem on Saturday. It’s not clear yet whether the migration is directly tied to Shell drilling, but the company is working with the Department of Environmental Protection to stop the flow of gas.

A voluntary evacuation request has been issued for people living within a mile of the suspected well, though Union Township is so rural that only four people have been affected. (For an interactive map of wells in Union Township, click here.)

Shell has requested people who live within near a mile of the suspected well pad to evacuate their homes, though the affected stretch is so rural that only four people live within that zone. “This is a safety precaution on our part,” said op de Weegh. “It’s worth noting the methane levels that we’re seeing are low.”

Nevertheless, Tioga County has mapped out an evacuation plan for  the more than 100 people who live within a  two-mile radius of the incident. Colegrove said he doesn’t think the extended evacuation will be needed.

What’s causing the methane migration? The investigation is still early, but the primary suspect is an unmapped, abandoned gas well more than 70 years old. Shell is digging near the site to gather more information. Colegrove pointed out Tioga County has experienced methane migration problems for decades, and “every case that I’m aware of has gone back to improper procedures [at extraction sites] that were done decades, or generations past.”

None of those cases, however, involved a thirty-foot geyser.

Check StateImpact Pennsylvania throughout the day for more information, including an update from the Department of Environmental Protection.


  • Christina Lee Countryman

    This is criminal.

  • Bushfan

    No Christina, this is not criminal, this is 1) irresponsible reporting, 2) fearmongering and 3) no big deal.  You won’t even remember this by next week, because it’s a non-issue.

    • VAppalachia1

      Clearly, you are not one of those evacuated from their homes and denied access to their property.

      • Appleblossom1

        Turning this into a “teachable moment” maybe everyone reading should wander on over to u tube and type in “Orphaned (or abandoned)Gas and Oil wells in Pa” and see what you come up with. There ought to have been such concern for the environment all along.  With a little education into the matter you will see why. There has been a far larger problem with those old wells leaking into streams, air, and groundwater all over the state for decades in everyone’s back yards and no one has been up in arms, or hysterical about that. There are not records for probably close to half of those old wells available and the Gov does not even know where many of them are. There are no companies to fix those abandoned wells unless the State Gov pays for it. If indeed there is one of those old wells involved here at least there is a pretty good chance that it will be fixed unlike all of those out there which have yet to be found that have been leaking for almost a hundred years that were capped with tree trunks and so forth by local settlers and no longer existing companies which have deteriorated. If Shell finds one they will fix the problem unlike some of the other companies which leave stuff like this and run. I care about the water too, but hysteria and rumors solve nothing. 

    • Tioga_native

      Bushfan your an idiot my families land is affected by this and it is a much much bigger problem than they are telling you right now.  You are wrong on all three counts.

  • VAppalachia1

    “What’s caus­ing the methane migra­tion? …the pri­mary sus­pect is an unmapped, aban­doned gas well more than 70 years old. Shell is dig­ging near the site to gather more infor­ma­tion.”  
    Terrific.  So now that problems arose that are impossible to ignore, Shell is gathering information about what older gas wells might exist near its drill sites.  If this was being done responsibly, shouldn’t state or federal regulators require some proof from industry that they understand the makeup of the strata through which they plan to drill?

  • VAppalachia1

    “Shell has requested peo­ple who live within near a mile of the sus­pected well pad to evac­u­ate their homes, though the affected stretch is so rural that only four peo­ple live within that zone.”
    Is Shell paying for hotel rooms and expenses for those forced to leave their homes?

  • justsaynotofracking

    Can we please stop blaming these occurrences on abandoned oil and gas wells as if it is some kind of unforeseeable consequence of shale gas fracking/drilling.  One of the problems of drilling the deep horizontal shale gas wells and setting off tiny earthquakes to release the gas is that there have already been hundreds of thousands of wells drilled in Pennsylvania since 1859.  The glossy natural gas propaganda ads that plaster TV don’t show you all those other holes in the ground when they show the shale well going down through the soil profile. 

    The truth is, the industry is drilling these new shale gas wells in a state that is already like Swiss cheese – so please stop blaming abandoned wells for causing pollution events like this.  The companies and the DEP have information on where wells have previously been drilled.  And if they don’t have sufficient information regarding previous drilling operations, they shouldn’t be drilling new wells. 

  • dartwick

    Methane migration?

    Thats a guess – they have no even ruled out thats its natural gas(which contains some methane.)

    The reason they are coming to this conclusion is that its the option the least imperils Shells strategy of drilling and capping wells in mass.

  • Vera Scroggins

    Why is every gas migration “mysterious” to the Gas Companies?? 

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