Pennsylvania orders EOG to halt Marcellus shale drilling

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, June 8 -- Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection ordered EOG Resources Inc. to suspend its natural gas well drilling activities in the state.

DEP’s order follows a June 3 blowout at one of the company's Clearfield County wells which sent gas and at least 35,000 gal of drilling wastewater into the sky and over the ground for 16 hr.

DEP Sec. John Hanger said that while the order bans all drilling and hydrofracturing operations for specified periods of time, the suspension will remain in effect until the department has completed a comprehensive investigation into the leak and the company has implemented any needed changes.

“DEP staff, along with an independent expert, will conduct a detailed investigation of not just the incident that occurred last week in Clearfield County, but of EOG’s drilling operations, as a whole, here in Pennsylvania,” said Hanger.

“The Clearfield County incident presented a serious threat to life and property. We are working with the company to review its Pennsylvania drilling operations fully from beginning to end to ensure an incident of this nature does not happen again,” Hanger said.

Under the order, EOG is prohibited from drilling activities up to 7 days; from engaging in fracing operations up to 14 days; and from completing or initiating post-fracing operations for 30 days in any wells throughout the state.

“These actions and operations cannot resume until the department agrees that the investigation has been fully completed,” DEP said, adding that the results of the investigation will also help determine whether additional enforcement action should be taken against the company.

Hanger added that EOG has been fully cooperative and in agreement with the department's ongoing investigation and order.

DEP said the leak began around 8.00 p.m. on June 3, when the well's operators lost control of it while preparing to extract gas after fracing the shale.

As a result, DEP said that “natural gas and flowback frac fluid was released uncontrollably onto the ground and 75 ft into the air. The well was capped at around noon on June 4.”

The EOG well pad is in a rural area near the Penfield-Route 153 exit of Interstate 80 in northwestern Clearfield County, near Moshannon State Forest.

DEP's preliminary investigation has determined that a blowout preventer on the well failed, but the agency does not yet know if that failure was the main cause of the incident. DEP said the BOP has been secured and will be one piece of the investigation.

EOG, formerly known as Enron Oil & Gas Co., operates 265 active wells in Pennsylvania, 117 of them in the Marcellus shale formation.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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