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Marcellus Shale Fires
Fires and explosions around Marcellus Shale gas production

How close is "too close to home?"
Drilling Close to Homes

Over the early years of Marcellus Shale exploration, drilling, fracking and production activities have come some serious accidents due to the volatile nature of various components of production and processing. Outlined on this page are a couple of the more notable fires and explosions in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

 
 
Gas Well Explosion & Fire
Bobtown, Pa - Chevron Lanco 7H
February 11, 2014
  

At dawn on Tuesday morning February 11, 2014 there was an explosion and fire at Chevron Appalachia's Lanco wells 6H and 7H in Dunkard Township, Greene County, located in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania.

Eighteen workers escaped without injury while one worker was reported to have suffered minor injuries. Two weeks after the explosion, bone fragments were being used to identify a missing worker who was presumed dead. Wild Well Control gained control of the two wells on February 25.

Full story with photos

 
Frac Tank Fire
Avella, Pa - Powers Unit
February 23, 2011
 

During post-frac work by Chesapeake Appalachia on three Marcellus Shale gas wells at the Joseph Powers Unit, a massive fire erupted at 6:15pm Wednesday. Residents as far as several miles away reported an explosion that shook their houses, followed by a second explosion 30-minutes later.

Five 21,000 gallon tanks containing flowback / condensate had exploded into flames during flaring on the well pad, injuring three workers. The 15-alarm fire was doused and controlled within four hours. For much of the time in the interim, billows of black smoke rose into the sky, creating a stench in the air and unknown health consequences for the nearby residents of Avella. The drilling company spokesperson stated there was "No danger" to residents or the environment.

Pa DEP Fines

Permit Num: 125-24033
Municipality: Independence
County: Washington
Well Name: Joseph Powers 1H
Company: Chesapeake 
Incident Date: 2/23/2011
2/23/2011
2011-05-16
Fine: $188,000
Group Fine: No 
Violation: Spill and fire; gas vapors from two condensate tanks on the well site ignited, causing an explosion and fire that caught the two tanks and three gas buster tanks on fire; during the fire, some of the condensate fluids escaped from the tanks and were consumed by fire; the explosion and fire injured three employees, two of whom had to be life-flighted to hospitals; the fire took three hours to put out; water and foam from the response needed to put the fire out migrated off site and was later contained and vacuumed up.
Response: Company was unable to determine what exactly ignited the gas vapors, though the possible causes included three gas flares, several glycol heaters, heavy equipment and a generator; the contractors working on the site were not using Lower Explosive Limit Monitors, which would have told people about a build-up of gas at risk of explosion; the company had to create a Condensate Management Plan for all of its sites so that a similar incident did not occur again.

Permit Num: 125-24033
Municipality: Independence
County: Washington
Well Name: Joseph Powers 1H
Company: Chesapeake 
Inspection Date: 3/20/2011
Incident Date: Sometime prior to 10/20/2011
Fine Date: 2011-10-20
Fine: $1,500
Group Fine: Yes (2)
Lead Permit: 125-24033 (1)
Violation:Failure to submit a completion report within 30 days of completion.
Response: Company submitted a completion report.

Permit Num: 125-24033
Municipality: Independence
County: Washington
Well Name: Joseph Powers 1H
Company: Chesapeake 
Incident Date: Sometime prior to 1/3/2011
Inspection Date: 9/5/2010
Fine Date: 2011-01-03
Fine: $,000
Group Fine: Yes (3)
Lead Permit: 125-24034 (3)
Violation:Failure to submit a well record and completion report within 30 days of completion of drilling.
Response: Company submitted a well record and completion report.

Permit Num: 125-24034
Municipality: Independence
County: Washington
Well Name: Joseph Powers 3H
Company: Chesapeake 
Incident Date: Sometime prior to 1/3/2011
Inspection Date: 6/14/2010
Fine Date: 2011-01-03
Fine: $1,000
Group Fine: Yes (3)
Lead Permit: 125-24034 (3)
Violation: Failure to submit a well record and completion report within 30 days of completion of drilling.
Response: Company submitted a well record and completion report.

Permit Num: 125-24035
Municipality: Independence
County: Washington
Well Name: Joseph Powers 5H
Company: Chesapeake 
Incident Date: 11/24/2010
Inspection Date: 12/1/2010
Fine Date: 2011-07-22
Fine: $2,000
Group Fine: No 
Violation: Spill; company reported that while transferring production fluids to storage tanks, about 800 gallons of the fluids spilled to the ground, overran the secondary containment near the tanks and entered a sump on the well pad; non of the documents in the state file detail what the production fluids were, whether it was brine or hydraulic fracturing flowback fluids or something else.
Response: Company determined that a hose coupling  came loose, allowing the fluids to spill before it was detected; the fluid was vacuumed up immediately; for an unstated reason, a state inspector did not visit the site until a week after the spill was reported; company left a message on a state inspector's phone, and sent an email, instead of calling the state emergency line; also, during a meeting to discuss the spill with state officials, the company expressed concern over a possible press release being sent out and asked if the fine document, known as the Consent Assessment of Civil Penalities, could be redacted, which the state said it could not be.

Permit Num: 125-24035
Municipality: Independence
County: Washington
Well Name: Joseph Powers 5H
Company: Chesapeake 
Incident Date: Sometime prior to 1/3/2011
Inspection Date: 10/19/2010
Fine Date: 2011-01-03 1,000 Yes (3) 125-24034 (3) Failure to submit a well record and completion report within 30 days of completion of drilling. Company submitted a well record and completion report.

Less than a year earlier and barely four miles away, another Marcellus drilling company had a very similar frac pit fire, shown in the photo and story below.

 
Frac Pit & Tank Fire
West Middletown, Pa - Cowden Unit
March 31, 2010
 

Shortly after 8:00am on a Wednesday morning in March 2010, a frac pit fire erupted at an Atlas Energy Resources Marcellus gas well location, shooting flames 300 to 400 feet into the air. A witness compared the sound of the ignition to throwing a match on a pile of wood saturated with gasoline...

WHOOF!

 
Full story with photos
 
Frac pit fire
 
Impoundment Fire
Buffalo, Pa - Best Impoundment Dam
Labor Day 2009
 

What were you doing Labor Day? 
  
The families next to the Best Production Pad in Buffalo, Pennsylvania were watching a drama unfold on Labor Day.  Natural gas drilling activities had continued for a year at a large drilling pad next to their homes on Wotring Road, as seven Marcellus gas wells were drilled and fracked by Range Resources.  A huge impoundment had been constructed behind their homes to hold recycled drilling fluids, and had a smell that ranged from kerosene to sewage.
   
They were told there would be one gas flare lit after the wells were fracked, and also given the chance to move into a pre-paid motel room for several days.  With the number of pets some families owned, along with other complications, most elected to stay home. They had already put up with drilling activities for a year, so how bad could a few more days be in comparison?  Or so they thought.
  
Instead of one flare being lit there ended up being two flares, as this photo and video from the early hours of Labor Day morning clearly illustrate:
   

Video of twin Labor Day flares in Buffalo, Pa
 
Twin gas well flares light up the sky in Washington County
Twin flares light up the sky during the
pre-dawn hours of Labor Day 2009
  
   
Labor Day gas flare on the Best Production Pad. Two flares were burning earlier in the morning.
The rancid odor was nearly as dramatic
as the huge gas flares
  
  
Gas flare is too close to nitrile-lined impoundment
The gas flare closest to the impoundment
caused the problem....
  
  
Frac pit liner being doused with water to extinguish fire
The nitrile pit liner caught on fire!
  
  

DEP eFACTS on the
BEST IMPOUNDMENT DAM
HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP, WASHINGTON COUNTY
BUFFALO, PA

Authorization ID: 798417
Permit number: 95-7-60915-2
Site: BEST IMPOUNDMENT DAM PERMIT 95-7-60915-2
Client: RANGE RESOURCES APPALACHIA LLC
Authorization type: Centralized Impoundment Damn
Application type: New
Authorization is for: SITE
Date received: 06/11/2009
Status: Issued 06/29/2009
  
  
Fire truck called to the scene of the frac pit liner fire
Eye witness reports indicate that Canton
Township VFD was called to the fire
  
  
Heat of gas flare caused the pit liner to ignite
Imagine the heat from a
gas flame that large
  
  
"Houston, we have a problem!"
Flare has been extinguished and
damage control begins
  
  
Gas flare and pit liner fire extinguished. A look at damage done to the pit liner by fire.
Firefighter's efforts couldn't prevent a large portion
of the pit liner from being destroyed
  
  
Crew replacing burned-up pit liner in Buffalo Pa
Section of the pit liner being replaced.
  
  
Looking out the window at the Best Production Pad gas flare
Gas flare re-lit the day after Labor Day.
  
  
Many questions still remain about this pit fire...
  

  

 
 
 
 

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