Morgan County OH Well Erupts with Gas & Drilling Mud

by Duane Nichols on May 12, 2014

Gas Well Erupts Near Ohio River Valley

Seven residents evacuated due to danger of explosion

From an Article by Dean Narciso, Columbus Dispatch, May 8, 2014

A Morgan County shale well being drilled in preparation for fracking began leaking on Sunday, forcing the evacuation of nearby residents.

State and federal environmental emergency-response teams and the drilling company finally contained the mess yesterday, but not before it reached a nearby creek.

The leak was discovered on Sunday, when about 10 gallons per minute of oily drilling fluid, called mud, gushed from the drill site, according to an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency report filed on Monday.

According to a U.S. EPA report, a “pocket of unexpected natural gas was encountered” during drilling. That caused overpressurization and failure of the well head. One hundred barrels of drilling mud spilled from the well on Sunday, according to the well’s owner, PDC Energy of Colorado, which said some of it reached an unnamed creek near Beverly, Ohio.

An unknown amount of wet gas — a mixture containing crude oil — also escaped. As of noon on Tuesday, 330 barrels of oil and water had been collected at the site, according to the U.S. EPA. The drilling mud was a 75 percent synthetic oil blend.

Drilling mud flooded the pad and flowed down an earthen platform into storm-water-control drainage ditches and into the creek. The drilling rig and pad were installed about a year ago on farmland owned by Orin D. Palmer, who grows corn, soybeans and hay near the site.

The company said yesterday that it had drilled about 7,000 feet down and had turned its drill and gone about 1,000 feet horizontally when it struck the gas. Yesterday, 75 to 100 workers and dozens of trucks were on Palmer’s property, working to mop up the spill, said Andy Maguire, on-scene coordinator for the U.S. EPA. Palmer was advised to leave but didn’t.

Timothy Funk, 53, lives nearby and can see the drilling rig from his house. He said his sister, Cynthia, 55, also lives nearby with their mother. The families learned nothing about the spill or possible dangers until Monday. “What we really want is a contact person from that company to tell us if our lives are ever in danger,” Cynthia Funk said.

PDC, with branch offices in West Virginia and Marietta, Ohio, operates 15 oil and gas wells in southeastern Ohio and plans to drill 18 more this year. It has had no similar incidents in Ohio, said Michael Edwards, senior director of investor relations for PDC. “There were no injuries. We have contained it. And we’ve made significant recovery of fluids.”

According to news reports, the company agreed to pay a $35,000 fine last  June after one of its wells near Fort Collins, Colo., released about 84,000 gallons of “flowback” fracking solution. “Obviously, the very first thing is safety to personnel and anyone in the area,” Edwards said. “ And we minimize what impacts we have to the environment.”

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which issues permits for drilling operations, described the incident as rare. The agency will review the spill within a few days and determine the integrity of the well, said spokesman Mark Bruce.

Teresa Mills, of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, said she fears that these spills occur more often than the public hears. “It is shameful that citizens don’t have a way to get this information,” she said. “It’s not on any state Web page.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Nadine Grabania May 13, 2014 at 8:01 am

More like PDS Energy (you know, “Potentially Dangerous Situation”).

Not so inspiring that PDC’s representative providing information to the public is Senior Director of Investor Relations. Is it possible that the company has no mechanism for communications with the public other than someone managing investors’ perceptions? What about a safety officer?

Just goes to show, when you lease your land, you don’t get to choose what operators you’re foisting on your community.


Kevin May 13, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Oh, certainly They can manage drilling sites…No Problemo….
We have safeguards set up to contain any spills or leaks … oops.

Sorry about that. We just couldn’t catch it on a Sunday when no one was about so that it couldn’t reach “an unnamed creek” that flows to Beverly and impacts their water wells.

Oh Well…. that’s how it goes.

You all down river, you watch out for your watershed now, y’hear?!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: