Well fire in Southwest Pa. may burn through the weekend
Updated on 2/15/14 at 7:30 a.m.
A natural gas well fire in Greene County may burn through the weekend as emergency crews work out a deal to withdraw water from a nearby source to extinguish the flames, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. Crews will be unable to search for a missing worker on the site until the fire is out.
Houston-based Wild Well Control has been on the ground in Dunkard Township since Tuesday afternoon, coming up with a plan to battle the yet-uncontrollable blaze on the Chevron well pad. In a press release Friday evening, Chevron spokeswoman Lee Ann Wainwright said “the initial well is burning at a steady flow, as expected, and an adjacent well on the pad is burning intermittently.
“This second well sustained damage from the heat of the fire from the initial well. We continue to monitor the condition and integrity of the remaining well on-site and a contingency plan is in place should conditions change.”
DEP spokesman John Poister says Wild Well Control has asked the state for a temporary emergency permit to withdraw water from a nearby creek or stream. Poister says the company will need “a lot” of water to extinguish the fire, although he could not cite a specific number of gallons, and the DEP wants to make sure water levels are safely maintained.
“Our concern always… is that they do it in the most environmentally sound way,” he says. “Even though it’s necessary to put this out, the last thing you want to do is create another environmental problem.”
Poister says water could be delivered to the site as early as Sunday, further delaying the time when Wild Well Control can begin extinguishing the fire and capping the well.
“We don’t think that’s going to happen this weekend now.”
On Thursday, DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo told reporters it would be difficult for the crews to search for the missing worker until they could put out the fire.
In the meantime, Chevron has been clearing the well pad of trucks and other equipment. Spokeswoman Lee Ann Wainwright says the last piece of equipment to be moved is a charred crane that has absorbed a tremendous amount of heat and is fueling the blaze at one of the wells.
“The flames have prevented the combustible gas from spreading beyond the well site.”