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XTO Methane Leak from Deep Shale Well in Powhatan, OHIO

XTO Methane Leak from Deep Shale Well in Powhatan, OHIO
XTO Energy spokeswoman Karen Matusic said officials are still unsure what caused the Schnegg well near Captina Creek to explode nearly one week ago.

With several residents still displaced, unknown quantities of methane gas continue to leak into the air. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that methane “absorbs much more energy than (carbon dioxide).”

Nevertheless, Matusic said officials are working as quickly as they can to normalize life for Powhatan Point and the nearby community of Steinersville. Many of those originally evacuated within the 1-mile radius of the well have been allowed to return home, while others are receiving compensation and hotel rooms.

“We send our heartfelt apologies to the community. We will make them whole and make sure they are safe,” Matusic said.

“If they spend money on a meal, they can get it back. Any out-of-pocket expense they have incurred from this can be claimed,” she said.

XTO is a subsidiary of global oil giant Exxon Mobil. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the driller produced natural gas from at least 40 separate wells in Belmont County last year. The company was in the process of finishing a fourth well on the Schnegg pad when the blast occurred.

Matusic said contractors spent much of Monday and Tuesday clearing a safe path to the pad and removing debris from the well site. Officials with XTO and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency continue monitoring air quality to ensure it is safe for residents to return home.

Matusic said flooding along Captina Creek and Cats Run during the weekend hampered some of the company’s efforts, in addition to causing power outages.

“Crews are actively working to restore power to residences that lost power as a result of weekend flooding. Five homes remain in the evacuation zone,” she said.

Residents and businesses hope to eventually get life back to normal. A nearby resident who declined to give her name said at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, it sounded as if “there was a jet engine” in her living room.” This was shortly after the report of the well blast.

In December 2014, residents of about 30 homes near Sardis were displaced for 10 days when the wellhead blew at a Magnum Hunter Resources operation. At that time, an unknown amount of unburned methane gushed into the atmosphere in a geyser-like manner.

Photo by Casey Junkins Access to Cats Run Road from Ohio 148 near Powhatan Point remains restricted Tuesday as contractors working for XTO Energy continue working to close a shale natural gas well that began leaking methane almost a week ago.

 XTO Well in Ohio Still Spewing Natural Gas After Blowout

Crews were still working Tuesday on a plan to cap a Utica Shale well that XTO Energy Inc. and its contractors lost control of last Thursday in Ohio’s Belmont County.

XTO spokesperson Karen Matusic said the company has been working since the incident to clear debris from the pad, and there is no timeline on when the well may be capped. She said it could take time to remove a large crane that was still on site. Texas-based Cudd Well Control was working to develop a plan to kill the well.

About 24 people were working at the Schnegg pad in York Township early Thursday when contractors lost control of the well as they were pulling plugs and finishing up completion operations, Matusic said. The well exploded and caught fire. It’s unclear what caused the incident, in which no one was hurt.

The well as of midday Tuesday was spewing gas and brine water. Local authorities estimated that about 100 people living within one mile of the well were evacuated after the incident. The evacuation zone had been reduced to a half-mile radius on Monday, but residents living in five homes were still waiting to return.

Three other producing wells on the affected pad were shut-in during the completion operations, but Matusic said it was too early to determine if they also were damaged.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with first responders and the well control specialists, were on scene monitoring the situation.

ODNR spokesman Steve Irwin said XTO is working with state agencies to conduct air quality tests. Booms have also been placed in a nearby creek to collect runoff from the pad. Irwin added that crews are also working to restore power in the area after heavy rains caused flooding over the weekend.

The ExxonMobil Corp. subsidiary has more than 82,000 acres scattered across the Utica Shale strongholds of Monroe and Belmont counties. Operators have received more than 550 horizontal permits to drill in Belmont County alone, or about 20% of all the Utica permits issued in the state, according to ODNR records.



 Powhatan Point Well Pad Evacuees Return Home


Heavy rain continues to stall the efforts to cap a well at XTO Energy’s Schnegg well pad near Captina Creek, the site of an explosion on Feb. 15, but the majority of the evacuees have returned home.

“We’re still working. Obviously the weather has been a factor slowing us down. We’re still trying to move that big crane. We want to do that very carefully because it’s near a well that had been producing before the master valve was shut after the incident,” XTO spokeswoman Karen Matusic said. “Weather forecasts are continued rain. Its supposed to get even heavier tomorrow I’ve heard …We’re still working even though it’s raining, but there’s access roads. We have to be careful everything is still safe and secure. A couple times the working crew has been pulled off the pad by emergency responders.”

Matusic said the process involves using the access roads to remove debris and heavy equipment. The high winds and rain may impact safety of the access roads.

“Those roads, even before rain, were tough. They’re rural roads,” she said.

Matusic said the pad had four wells, and the well that had the blowout was not yet in production.

“There were three other wells in production, but the minute the incident happened, they turned off the master valve to stop those other three wells,” she said. “But when the crane fell, it fell near one of the wells that had been producing before it was shut off, so now we have to move that crane. We have to be very careful of the way it’s positioned.”

She also said the majority of the people evacuated from the outer half mile around the pad site have returned home. Matusic added that XTO has purchased generators to provide power to those who needed them in the event of power disruption. The company has also pledged to replace food and refrigeration units lost in power outtages.

About 100 people from 30 homes within a mile of the pad site were evacuated after the incident. The evacuation zone has since been reduced to a half mile, which includes four homes that had been occupied at the time. Evacuees from the homes in the outer half mile accompanied teams to their residences to check the air quality.

The evacuees had been housed at XTO’s expense at four hotels at St. Clairsville, Moundsville and Wheeling.

“There are just a handful of folks who were cleared, who have not returned to their house,” she said.

Residents have also been escorted to feed their livestock through the response process.

Any local residents who may have been impacted by this incident are encouraged to call XTO Energy’s claims phone number at 855-351-6573 or visit XTO Energy’s community response command center at the Powhatan Point Volunteer Fire Department, located at 104 Mellott St. XTO representatives and claims adjusters are on site to help meet the community’s needs.

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 Work continues at XTO well blowout in eastern Ohio


Work is continuing to cap an out-of-control horizontal Utica Shale well in eastern Ohio.

Heavy rains late last week delayed work at the XTO Energy well pad in York Township, Belmont County.

The blown-out well continues to emit natural gas into the air, up to 100 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d), according to company estimates provided to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The well also has leaked brine, produced water and condensate components, but no major environmental problems emerged, said Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesman Steve Irwin.

The federal agency said up to 5,000 gallons might have escaped from the site, but what leaked was quickly diluted.

It is unclear what caused the loss of control on the well and that remains under investigation, Irwin told Kallanish Energy.

XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, hired Wild Well Control to extinguish the fire and Cudd Energy Services to cap the well, according to local media reports.

XTO and ODNR are calling the problem “a well control incident.” A crane that was felled in the blowout remains atop a second nearby well and must be removed. Irwin said. That work has been delayed by heavy rains, snow and flooding.

The blowout damaged the well pad and the wellhead, or top of the well.

The natural gas leak, resulting fires and explosions occurred on the morning of Feb. 15 at the Schnegg C-7H well. The incident occurred as operators were returning to service an idle well that had been previously drilled and hydraulically fractured (fracked), officials said.

The 24 workers on the pad escaped without injury. There were three other producing wells on the pad which were shut down.

The problem shows Ohio’s current setback rules for horizontal wells are insufficient and do not protect local communities, said spokeswoman Melanie Houston with the Ohio Environmental Council. Ohio’s rules require a minimum 100-foot setback from a well to a house in a rural setting.

“It is past time for Ohio lawmakers to reconsider a safer setback distance,” she said, in a statement. “This is yet another wake-up call that stronger protections are needed for communities from the risks of oil and gas well pads.”


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