Fracking Blowout in PA Gas Well

Friday, April 22, 2011 @ 06:04 AM gHale

A blowout at a natural gas well in rural northern Pennsylvania during a fracking procedure spilled thousands of gallons of chemical-laced water, contaminating a stream and forcing seven families who live nearby to evacuate.

Chesapeake Energy Corp. lost control of the well site near Canton, PA, at 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, officials said. Tainted water flowed from the site all day Wednesday, though by the mid-afternoon, workers diverted the extremely salty water away from the stream.

There were no injuries reported, and there was no explosion or fire.

“As a precautionary measure, seven families who live near the location have been temporarily relocated until all agencies involved are confident the situation has been contained. There have been no injuries or natural gas emissions to the atmosphere,” said Chesapeake spokesman Brian Grove.

Chesapeake said a piece of equipment failed late Tuesday while the well was undergoing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. In the fracking process, millions of gallons of water, along with chemical additives and sand, inject at high pressure down the well bore to break up the shale and release the gas.

State environmental regulators took water samples from the unnamed tributary of Towanda Creek on Wednesday but did not report a fish kill.

Katy Gresh, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said reports from the scene indicate fracking water was gushing from the wellhead, pooling on the pad, then escaping containment.

Francis Roupp, deputy director of the Bradford County Emergency Management Agency, said a cracked well casing could be the cause of the blowout. Crews tried pumping drilling mud into the well bore in an effort to stop the leak. Gresh said DEP recommended a heavier mud.

Fracking allows affordable access to gas supplies that once were too expensive to tap. Critics complain that the chemicals used in fracking may be contaminating water supplies.

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