Explosion Rocks Marcellus Well in WV, Workers Seriously Burned

by S. Tom Bond on July 9, 2013

View from Pitcock Farm

Explosion Rocks Natural Gas Well in Marcellus Shale, Workers Seriously Burned

From the Article by Tara Lohan, AlterNet Project, July 8, 2013

A day after an explosion in the rural community of New Milton, West Virginia residents are still awaiting answers about the cause and the damage. The view from the Pitcocks’ yard of the well flaring gas from the well pad where the explosion occurred on July 7, 2013.

An explosion at a nearby gas drilling well pad jostled John Pitcock awake around 4 a.m. on Sunday morning. Pitcock and his wife Diane moved with their sons from the Baltimore, Maryland area to rural New Milton, West Virginia in Doddridge County nearly a decade ago to enjoy a quiet country life. But when drilling companies began tapping the underlying Marcellus Shale in the area for natural gas reserves using high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), their peaceful country life disappeared.

The Pitcocks have been plagued by noise, lights, dust, emissions and truck traffic after a neighbor leased his land to a drilling company, which has erected several well pads on the land adjacent to their property. Over the last year trees have been clear cut, miles roads built through their rural neighborhood, and drilling begun. On Friday, July 5 I visited their home and witnessed gas being flared from a well through the night — the light illuminated their front yard from a ridge top about 2,000 feet away.

John Pitcock reported that the well continued to flare through the next day and night and another well beside it was loudly venting gas on and off. What became a nuisance turned to a real fright during the early morning hours of Sunday as John describes in this video here

The Pitcocks were initially told (after driving off their property to find employees working nearby and emergency response officials) that they needed to evacuate, but were later told it was optional and they could remain. Since then conflicting reports have emerged about the number of workers injured and the severity of their injuries at the well pad, which is officially called the Hinterer 2H well on the Ruddy Alt pad and is operated by Antero Resources. The West Virginia Gazette-Mail reported at least seven injured and at four or five workers were flown to West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the Doddridge County director of emergency services did not return phone calls as of publication. While the cause of the fire hasn’t been determined, writing for the Gazette-Mail, David Gutman explained that this is not the first safety issue that Antero has had recently:

Last August a spark at an Antero-owned well in Harrison County ignited methane gas several hundred feet underground, causing a fireball and a fire that burned for about an hour. Three workers were injured in that fire. WV-DEP cited Antero for failure to maintain well control for that incident.

DEP has cited Antero for 17 violations of state code in the past three years. Those have been primarily environmental violations — for things like failing to prevent waste runoff, failure to report discharges and contaminating waterways. One violation, from January 4, 2013, warned, “Imminent danger water supplys [sic] threatened by allowing pollutants to escape and flow into the waters of the state.”

In June of last year Antero was drilling using water in Harrison County when they accidentally repressurized some old water wells, causing several geysers, one about 10 feet high, that flooded one nearby home and several garages.

In March 2011, state regulators shut down an Antero gas well in Harrison County after mud contaminated with drilling chemicals spilled into a nearby stream.

John Pitcock says that he doesn’t think companies should be drilling in this manner in proximity to people’s homes.

NOTE: Tara Lohan, a senior editor at AlterNet, has just launched the new project Hitting Home, chronicling extreme energy extraction. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis, including most recently, “Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource.”

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Rick Humphries July 9, 2013 at 4:56 pm

I’m sorry to learn about the rig worker injuries.  I hope they all recover without any lasting effects.  Review of oil & gas safety requirements and OSHA standards must be inevitable.
The explosions raise renewed concerns about setback distances. If officials questioned the Pitcock’s safety, 2,500 feet from the well pad, what might have happened if the Pitcock’s had been at the legislated setback distance of 625 feet (1,875 feet CLOSER)? What might have happened if their home had been at a distance of 200 feet?
Any reasonable investigation of this explosion must include the area of impact. Public safety, right to be secure and enjoy one’s property may be compromised or neglected if these distances are not responsibly considered. 
Also, when it comes to public safety, grandfathering past distance allowances is not an option. We know from looking at news articles, prior to Nov/Dec 2011, it was permissible for the WV DEP to authorize well pads that are 200 feet or closer to homes. It’s inexcusable to wait for the next tragic accident to happen. Public officials should insist on every reasonable precaution to prevent it. 
Ricky Humphreys


S. Tom Bond July 9, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Subject: Gas well fires in WV and large fires from gas production
This isn’t a rare phenomenon.  A quick survey of news reports shows seven in the past three years in West Virginia alone:

July 8, 2013. Well near  New Milton, Doddridge County.  8 (or 9) injured, five severely. Explosion in tank/s holding flowback.  Anterio owned.

April 11, 2013, Wick, Tyler County, well. 2 dead, 1 injured. Explosion at pig receiving station near transmission facility.  Eureka – Hunter owned.

April 10, 2013, Well near Genteel Ridge Road, Brooke County. No injured reported. Several pumper trucks destroyed, $8M damage reported.  Chesapeake

December 11, 2012, Sissonville,  Kanawha  County. Explosion of major transmission line.  No fatalities reported.  Nisource – Columbia Gas Transmission

September 20, 2012, Well in Marshall County,. No injuries announced.  Chesapeake officials set up several security checkpoints, blocking access to the site.

August 17, 2012, Well on Sycamore, Harrison County.  3 injured, 2 seriously.  Gas ignited 400 feet underground as drilling began.   Water wells affected.  Anterio

June 7, 2010, Well near Moundsville, Marshall County.  7 injured sent to burn center in Pittsburgh.  Ran into an abandoned coal mine 1000 feet down.  AB Resources PA, LLC

Doubtless several others in Pennsylvania and other shale drilling areas.

Notice the press let them get away in several cases with no report of injury.


Amanda Flynn July 11, 2013 at 11:00 am

Given below are the detailed listings of data fields in each of the 8 data types in the Survey’s oil and gas well database. In this relational database structure, records in each of the file types are keyed on the designated county code/permit number of the wells. A “suffix” code describes the individual episodes of drilling (e.g., original drilling, deepening, or workover). For wells with multiple deepenings or workovers, linking the various records for specific episodes of drilling may involve the use of the API number, suffix, and the episode completion date.

For some of the data types (e.g., LOCATIONS, MECHANICAL LOG CATALOG, and WELL SAMPLES AND CORES), there is only one record regardless of the number of episodes of drilling. For other data types (e.g., COMPLETIONS/OWNERS), there is one record for each episode of drilling. For yet other data types (e.g., PAYS/SHOWS/WATER, STRATIGRAPHY, and PRODUCTION), there are a variable number of records for each well, with one record for each pay or show or water zone, or for each stratigraphic unit, or for each year of production data available.

This data structure imports readily into relational databases such as ACCESS; however, the variable number of records per well for certain data types makes importing the data into a spreadsheet somewhat more difficult.


Duane Nichols July 12, 2013 at 6:20 pm

DEP News – WVDEP issues Cease Operations Order to Antero

Friday, July 12, 2013 @ 5:05 PM

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s
Office of Oil and Gas has issued a Cease Operations Order
to Antero Resources in connection with the company’s Ruddy
Alt gas well pad in Doddridge County.

The Ruddy Alt pad was the site of a July 7 well fire in
which five workers were injured during operations on the
well. The cause of the fire on the pad’s Hinterer Unit 1H
well is under investigation.

As part of the OOG order, which halts all well work on the
Ruddy Alt pad, Antero must submit a report to the OOG on or
before July 31, 2013, that demonstrates a knowledge and
understanding as to the cause of the July 7 incident;
demonstrates Antero’s ability to safely resume operations
on the well pad; outlines future preventive measures that
will safeguard from similar future incidents; and confirm
that any possible pollutants were contained on site


Fritz Frank July 19, 2013 at 12:16 am

: Texas-Drilling.com obtains all relevant oil and gas data and information from the Texas Railroad Commission in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act. While we are constantly updating and improving our datasets and product, we do not guarantee that the results and coverage provided are 100% complete and up to date. Before making any large decision, please consult the Texas Railroad Commission to verify any findings from Texas-Drilling.com. Texas-Drilling.com is constantly growing in oil and gas data and coverage.


Duane Nichols July 24, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Worker injured in gas well explosion dies at West Penn Hospital

By Michael Hasch, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 23, 2013

A worker has died from injuries sustained in a natural gas well explosion in northcentral West Virginia.

Tommy Paxton, 45, of Walton, W.Va., died Tuesday morning in the burn unit of West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield, where he was flown following the explosion on July 7 at the Antero Resources drilling site near New Milton, Doddridge County, a spokesman for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office said.

Al Schopp, vice president of Colorado-based Antero, had said that four other workers were flown to West Penn with varying degrees of burns. Schopp said the crew was in the final stages of completing the well and was inserting a narrow production tube into the metal casing around the drilled hole when methane gas ignited.


S. Thomas Bond July 24, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Al Schopp, vice president of Colorado-based Antero, had said that four other workers were flown to West Penn with varying degrees of burns.

You know darn well they didn’t fly anyone to the Burn Center in Pittsburgh unless they were in serious condition.

That’s what I call sociopathic, CYA comes before humanity.


d. shatin July 28, 2013 at 3:33 pm

How come this important news was nowhere on any TV new stations??????

Hiding the truth from the American people about fracking!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: