The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

August 2, 2013

Antero plan aims to prevent gas well explosions

State DEP deems letter as ‘incomplete’

MORGANTOWN — To prevent another fatal blast in West Virginia, Antero Resources says it will more closely review the layout of equipment on drilling sites, consider taller storage tanks for flowback water and latch those tanks to ensure potentially explosive gases are contained.

But the state Department of Environmental Protection deemed the company’s two-page letter “incomplete” on Thursday and said the Doddridge County site will remain shut down “until Antero provides a response that satisfies the requirements outlined in the original order.”

Colorado-based Antero tells the state Office of Oil and Gas that it will also require workers to wear portable gas monitors on drilling sites, and it will consider installing fixed monitors at each of those locations, depending on risk assessments.

The letter released by the DEP says the company is also looking at different configurations of storage tanks and venting systems, including flares to burn off accumulated gases. Only emergency relief lines will vent into the atmosphere, Antero says.

Five Antero subcontractors were burned and two later died after a July 7 explosion of methane gas in a tank that holds used fluids that flow back from a well at an Antero drilling site near New Milton in Doddridge County.

Jason Mearns, 37, of Beverly, died Sunday at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh. Tommy Paxton, 45, of Walton, died at West Penn Hospital on July 24.  

Antero Vice President Al Schopp has said the crew was inserting a narrow production tube into the metal casing around the drilled hole when methane ignited.   

The letter says the blast was the result of an accumulation of gases in the storage tanks, weather conditions that encouraged that accumulation, a concentration of hydrocarbons heavier than methane and “an apparent ignition source” near a skid pump.

Antero does not, however, identify that possible ignition source or explain precisely what happened.

The DEP said the blast ruptured two tanks containing flowback water that Antero had been reusing, but the secondary containment system captured the fluid as designed and none left the site.

The site has been shut down while state regulators awaited the report from Antero.

Separate examinations by state, federal, company and independent investigators are continuing to determine exactly what caused methane to ignite as work was wrapping up on the Hinterer 1H well.  

The explosion is the latest of several high-profile incidents for Antero in West Virginia.

Last August, three workers at the company’s Cottrill No. 3 well in Harrison County were injured when methane from several hundred feet below ground ignited and triggered a fire on the drilling rig floor.

The DEP cited Antero for failure to maintain well control at the pad near Sycamore.  

Two months before that, a drilling operation in the Sardis area of Harrison county hit an aquifer and inadvertently re-pressurized a handful of old water wells. That created a backyard geyser at least 10 feet high and several smaller gushers, but no one was injured.  

Workers had been drilling an initial well hole with just fresh water and air when the bit became stuck. Rather than turn the air flow off, the crew left it on as they tried to withdraw the drill. That effectively charged up the aquifer, and the trapped air sought an escape.

The crew was still thousands of feet away from oil and gas deposits.

Text Only
West Virginia
  • Gee’s move could save Ohio State millions

    Ohio State University expects to save millions of dollars because former president Gordon Gee is giving up part of his retirement package as he becomes president of West Virginia University for the second time.

    April 19, 2014

  • W.Va. AG court filings: Dismiss gun law question

    The attorney general says a court challenge should be dismissed over whether West Virginians can bring guns to city recreational facilities that hold school events.
    Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s filings Thursday argue the city of Charleston shouldn’t receive court guidance on how to implement a state gun law.

    April 18, 2014

  • Energy-state Dems split from Obama

    Scrapping to keep a West Virginia Senate seat Democratic in a state that’s sprinted to the right, Natalie Tennant is counting on her allegiance to the coal industry to separate herself from an unpopular President Barack Obama.
    Her approach reflects common Democratic strategy and tactics this midterm election year in energy-producing states that lean Republican: Sen. Mary Landrieu is vying for a fourth term representing Louisiana; Alaska Sen. Mark Begich is running for re-election for the first time; and Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes wants to replace Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

    April 17, 2014

  • Official: $2M in chemical spill costs reimbursable

    Public agencies and nonprofits that helped after a Jan. 9 chemical leak into the water supply could receive $2 million in reimbursements for their emergency work, a West Virginia homeland security official said.
    Federal and state emergency officials briefed fire departments, paramedics and other government groups Wednesday on how to recoup costs.

    April 17, 2014

  • Manchin urges mines to speak out for coal

    The Democratic senator leading the battle against the White House’s strategy to fight climate change urged the mining industry on Tuesday to speak out about coal’s role in providing affordable, reliable electricity to the country to help combat strict new emissions rules for coal-fired power plants.

    April 16, 2014

  • Many schools already meet new mandate for breakfast

    Many West Virginia public schools have changed the way they serve breakfast to students ahead of a requirement that goes into effect in September.

    April 14, 2014

  • W.Va. grower promotes unmodified feed corn

    Lyle Tabb is hoping that his non-genetically modified corn will take off with farmers who can charge top dollar for “all natural” eggs.
    Genetically modified or GMO corn has greatly simplified the process of getting rid of weeds, but has also substantially increased the amount of a chemical call glyphosate.

    April 13, 2014

  • Geologists link small quakes to fracking

    Geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to hydraulic fracturing, leading the state to issue new permit conditions Friday in certain areas that are among the nation’s strictest.
    A state investigation of five small tremors last month in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, found the injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, said State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers. He called the link “probable.”

    April 12, 2014

  • Phares looks forward to retirement

    James Phares looked forward to the challenge and opportunity to help make a difference in a state education system under fire when he was hired in late 2012 as West Virginia’s schools superintendent.
    After 18 months, Phares will be stepping down on June 30 — which he said was set long ago as the day at age 61 that he’d walk with his wife into retirement.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teacher planning, abortion ban among W.Va. vetoes

    Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed about 200 bills and nixed eight this year, leaving teachers and abortion opponents unsatisfied.

    April 7, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads