Three Injured in Flash-fire at Marcellus Well in Washington County, Penna.

by Duane Nichols on February 27, 2011

A flash-fire erupted shortly after 6 pm this past Wednesday, February 23rd, at a Chesapeake Energy well site at Avella in Penna., not far from Wellsburg, WV.  At least three storage tanks containing natural gas liquids were ablaze for about four hours.   Three workers, from Sardis, OH, from Clover, WV, and from New Martinsville, WV,  received significant injuries.  

This was not the tri-state area’s first gas-related accident.  An AB Resources well about 6 miles south of Moundsville exploded this past June.  Also, a Chesapeake well on Pleasants Ridge near Cameron also in Marshall county ignited  this past September. There was a similar Marcellus fire just four miles away from this one, in Hopewell Township of Washington county in Pennsylvania this past March.  See the photos of that fire here, which involved only a fraction of the smoke that polluted the air from the larger fire this past week.

Joseph Powers, who lives on the 300-acre parcel where the fire occurred, said no one from Chesapeake called him or came to tell him what happened.  I’m just watching TV now to see what happened out there,” Mr. Powers said Thursday evening. Chesapeake “doesn’t tell us anything. … So, I’m not surprised” they didn’t call, he said. The workers are still hospitalized and the specific cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Just a week after repealing a policy requiring an environmental assessment of Marcellus Shale gas well permit proposals in state parks, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has announced it is suspending and reconsidering key air pollution controls governing the drilling industry. These latest policy changes under new Governor Corbett would eliminate a December guideline that regulates emissions from all well operations in a region together, which could result in stricter pollution controls than if the wells are regulated individually. The department is now soliciting public comments on “whether any guidance or policy should be considered on this topic, and, if so, what such a policy or guidance might provide.”

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