Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Natural gas well explodes in southwest Pennsylvania [UPDATED]

Last updated at 10:55 a.m. Thursday Click here for more updates.

The Associated Press reports one worker is injured and another missing after a natural gas well exploded early Tuesday morning in Dunkard Township, Greene County in southwest Pennsylvania.

More details from the AP:

Chevron spokesman Trip Oliver says the fire was reported at about 6:45 a.m. at the Lanco 7H well in Dunkard Township, near Bobtown. That’s about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh. Oliver says one person is reported hospitalized and another is currently unaccounted for.

Oliver says Chevron personnel immediately responded to the fire and called in assistance from Wild Well Control.

Ambulance and emergency medical crews have been summoned to the scene, and state police have reportedly set up a half-mile perimeter.

Crews at the scene report that intense flames have kept them from getting too close to the well.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the fire was still burning at noon and plumes of smoke were billowing from the site. See the Lanco 7H well on our Shale Play map here.

More details from the Post-Gazette:

DEP spokesman John Poister said that Chevron flew in a Wild Well Control team from Houston this morning and it arrived at Pittsburgh International Airport at 12:45 p.m.

He said the team had begun its evaluation of the situation prior to making an attempt to choke off the natural gas spewing from the well and put out the fire.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and the Greene County Emergency Management Agency also are on the scene, and help from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Red Cross has been requested.

Mr. Poister said the fire was complicated further by a truck on the well pad that contained propane, which became involved in the fire and also exploded. The fire was so intense that firefighters had to pull back from the flames, he said.

“They essentially retreated to let the fire burn,” Mr. Poister said.

“Chevron’s primary concern at this point is to contain the fire and ensure the safety of its employees, contractors and the surrounding community,” said Chevron Spokesman Kent Robertson in an e-mail.

Here’s a video of the fire posted by WPXI at 1:30 p.m.

As StateImpact Texas has reported, Houston-based Wild Well Control has trained local first responders in Pennsylvania, many of them small volunteer fire companies, to handle incidents like well blowouts.

As of 6:10 p.m. Tuesday one worker is still missing. Chevron says another worker with minor injuries has been released from the hospital.

“Chevron would like to express our sincere regret to those who were affected by the incident,” the company said in a statement.

Chevron says nearby residents with concerns can call the company’s hotline: 1-877-847-8408*

Update 10:05 a.m. Wednesday: One worker is still unaccounted for. According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, the fire is still burning Wednesday morning. The cause of the explosion remains unknown.

DEP spokesman John Poister says Houston, Texas-based Wild Well Control is on the scene and still determining the best way to attack the blaze.

“Because no danger of it spreading, they’re taking their time to determine exactly what equipment they need,” he says. “We are probably going to do some air sampling as we get closer to the time when Wild Well will begin their work.”

Chevron update 3:35 p.m. Wednesday: One worker is still missing. The fire is still burning at the well site from an uncontrolled well release.

“At this time we cannot speculate how long the fire may burn,” Chevron spokeswoman Lee Ann Wainwright writes in an email. “We have begun to monitor the air, surface waters and noise in the area for any signs of impact. At this point we have no indications that this incident has created any safety risk.”

DEP update 6:15 p.m. Wedneday: DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo attended a briefing today with officials from Chevron, the contracting company Cameron International, and Wild Well Control. He explained that there is a truck next to the flaming well that is absorbing a significant amount of heat, and making it more difficult for the flames to be extinguished.

Abruzzo says windy conditions have helped disperse vapors into the atmosphere instead of settling into the valley where most of the homes are. DEP staff used hand-held monitors on the site.
“They were getting negative readings in terms of volatile organic compounds and other explosive-type gases,” he says.
The DEP will continue to place air sampling devices in the area around the well site.
“We don’t have any real concerns that there are people in the immediate area that may have been harmed either because of the initial explosion or ignition or from vapors,” he says. “This just demonstrates why making sure that the location of well pads is done responsibly because at the end of the day the most important thing for all of us is the protection of our citizens.”
Update 10:55 a.m. Thursday: A worker is still missing. Governor Corbett issued the following statement this morning:
“Our focus right now is making sure workers and first responders are safe, and we are concerned about the potential loss of life,” said Corbett.
“Yesterday, I directed Secretary of Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Chris Abruzzo and other executive level DEP staff to get to the site and assist authorities in managing this incident. State authorities have also been in touch with the company to work together and resolve immediate needs.  I have also directed Secretary Abruzzo to work with the appropriate state, county and local authorities and create a multi-agency investigation after this incident concludes. We need to determine exactly what happened and how we can learn from it.”

StateImpact Pennsylvania will update this story as more details become available. Click here for more coverage.

*Note: a previous version of this story had an inaccurate phone number. It has been corrected.

Comments

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »

Economy
Education