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XTO Well in Powhatan Point Capped After 20 Days

XTO Well in Powhatan Point Capped After 20 Days
POWHATAN POINT — After weeks of work through inclement weather and the evacuation of 30 households following a well pad explosion Feb. 15, XTO Energy announced Wednesday that the well was successfully capped.

In order to make the site safe for workers to plug the leak, XTO “flared,” or burned off excess gas, at the site. The mostly methane gas was directed to an excavated containment area and ignited. The gas burned through the night, illuminating the sky above much of Belmont County with an orange glow. Residents in areas such as Morristown, Belmont and Centerville reported seeing the light from the flames, as well as bright flashes of light they compared to lightning.

The flaring process made the area safe for workers. Capping operations subsequently were completed fairly quickly Wednesday morning.

“We have gained control of the well. It has stopped flowing,” XTO spokeswoman Karen Matusic said. “We did the flare (Tuesday), and that was to move the gas away from the site so that the men could go on and shut the valve off. We also had to pump fluid and mud back into the well to further secure it, and once they did that and they were confident with the pressure and took some pressure testings, they were able to shut it off. The whole process took about two and a half hours (Wednesday) morning once they extinguished the flare.”

Matusic said the next step would be facilitating the evacuees’ return home.

In the days following the explosion, about 100 residents living in a 1-mile radius of the site were housed in four area hotels at XTO’s expense. Later, the evacuation zone was reduced to a half-mile, still containing four homes. Some residents in the exterior half-mile refrained from returning home until the well was capped.

Matusic said the homes in the exterior half-mile were tested and cleared for occupation, and the process will be repeated for the homes in the inner half-mile.

“As far as people going home, what we’re doing now is working with American Electric Power to restore power, because they’d shut off power in the area. Once the power’s back on, those four homes that had been evacuated within the half-mile, we’ll go in with them like we did with the other homes and test, room-by-room, air quality and also see to any repairs, anything that we have to do in the home, replace refrigerators, that sort of thing, to get these folks back in their homes,” she said.

“Once we go in with the monitor team with the residents, we go through and make sure that everything’s fine, that the air quality’s perfectly fine for them. Then our claims adjusters will go in with the residents and go through, room-by-room, to see if there are any repairs (needed), if there’s any damage — water pipes, if they need a new refrigerator or freezer. Those repairs can start right away, as soon as they secure contractors to do it. Repairs on some of the homes of people that have gone back have already begun.”

Now that the flow of gas is contained, XTO teams and state regulators will be able to assess the well pad site to determine the cause of the explosion.

Matusic added that water samples and air quality testing have been taking place throughout the incident.

“As far as any impact on trees or grasses or plants, we have biologists that can go out and look at that and replace anything that they see that might have been affected by the incident,” she said.

There is no timetable for when the well pad will be back in production, Matusic noted.

“It could be offline for as long as the investigation takes,” she said. “We’ll be doing a very thorough investigation. … We apologize to local residents for the disruption and thank them for their patience to restore everything back to normal. As far as claims go, we will make sure any vegetation that was affected by this will be restored.”

She added that state regulators will continue to make assessments. She pointed out that environmental assessments may be difficult at this time, due to factors such as a lack of leaves on the trees.

“We’ll continuously be going back there to put back anything we need to restore,” she said.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokesperson said the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is the lead government agency at the XTO Energy well pad and that all questions should be referred to that agency at 614-265-6860.

Emergency vehicles are parked along Ohio 148 in Powhatan Point Thursday while responding to a blast at XTO Energy’s Schnegg well pad near Captina Creek. Photo by Scott McCloskey


Source: Intelligencer wheeling News-Register




EPA: 100 Million Cubic Feet Of Methane Leaked Per Day

 POWHATAN POINT –As damaging as a coal-fired power plant may be to the environment, the methane leaked from XTO Energy’s Schnegg well in Belmont County could be 84 times worse, according to a Harvard University researcher.

The report on the well blowout, prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, estimates the well leaked about 100 million cubic feet per day during the 19 days. In addition to methane, other substances lost into the atmosphere included brine and condensate.

Methane is the most common component of Marcellus and Utica shale gas streams, while most commercially marketed “natural gas” is methane. Brine can be a mixture of salt, water and other materials. The U.S. Energy Information Administration defines condensate as “light liquid hydrocarbons,” including pentanes.

“What I think is really unique is how long it lasted. They were not able to cap the well for almost three weeks,” said Drew Michanowicz, a research fellow at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“We don’t usually see well blowouts last this long,” he added.

Michanowicz said he believes methane is 84 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere when compared to carbon dioxide, or CO2. Former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan was meant to target CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants. However, that plan did nothing to regulate the more potent greenhouse gas.

In December 2014, a well blowout near Sardis resulted in methane spout into the atmosphere for 10 straight days. One year later, in December 2015, another significant blowout took place in Aliso Canyon, Calif., near Los Angeles.

“The rate at Aliso Canyon was about 48 million cubic feet per day,” Michanowicz said. “If the numbers are right, this was about twice as big as that.”

XTO is a subsidiary of global oil giant Exxon Mobil, a firm which posted corporate earnings of $8.4 billion from Oct. 1-Dec. 31. The company fracked at least 40 natural gas wells in Belmont County without any major problem, until the company’s luck ran out on the morning of Feb. 15. Most of the company’s operations are in the southeastern quadrant of the county near areas such as Powhatan Point, Shadyside and Bellaire.

“We’ve never had a blowout in Appalachia,” XTO spokeswoman Karen Matusic said. “This was not a producing well, so that makes it more difficult to determine what went wrong.”

Matusic is not sure how much material leaked into the air, nor how much money the incident will ultimately cost the company.

“That was preliminary,” Matusic said regarding the EPA estimation of 100 million cubic feet per day. “We’re not sure where that is coming from.”

In Ohio, both the state Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency have certain regulatory authority over drilling. Steve Irwin, ODNR spokesman, said any citations have yet to be determined.

“Our priority has been and continues to be the safety of the workers and the community. ODNR will continue to investigate the cause of the incident and work with local first responders and our state partners on an after action review,” he said.

Matusic said XTO is determined to discover the source of the problem to prevent more blowouts.

“Our company really wants to get to the bottom of what went wrong,” she added.

Source: Intelligencer

BY: Casey Junkins

Powhatan Point evacuees return home

Carole Matesick, one of the Powhatan Point residents evacuated after the Feb. 15 XTO Energy well pad explosion, is returning home. Her house is being cleaned and made ready the day after contractors plugged the methane leak.

POWHATAN POINT — Commercial cleaning company vehicles parked in several driveways along Cats Run Road Thursday, as the last of the evacuees displaced by the XTO Energy Schnegg well pad explosion Feb. 15 could finally return home.

This occurred after Wednesday’s announcement that the operation to cap the well was complete.

A total of 30 households were evacuated in a 1-mile radius of the pad. The air was later cleared in the exterior half-mile and residents were able to return home if they wished before the capping operation. However, four households in the interior half-mile had to remain evacuated throughout the process, which was delayed by issues such as weather and the need to clear away debris from a fallen crane.

Returning residents were busy with settling in and speaking with the cleaners, but some took the time to speak about their experiences.

Dale and Debbie Goudy were from home for the entire three weeks. They were home during the explosion, shortly after 8 a.m. Feb. 15, when they heard the accident and were notified by Belmont County’s automated emergency calling system.

“I had gotten up…and I heard this noise,” Debbie Goudy said. “While we were standing there, before the boom, a fire truck, an ambulance, and an (Ohio State Highway Patrol) car came up…I’m thinking, what are they doing now, over there? I ask (Dale), ‘can you hear that noise?’ and that’s when the boom shook the doors.”

Goudy said Belmont County Emergency Management Agency officials initially told her there had been an explosion at the massive underground coal mine in the area. However, they eventually realized this was not the case.

“There’d been an explosion, and the well was on fire,” Dale said. They recalled the rush to evacuate in the space of a half-hour, packing the minimum of clothes and items, and not knowing what they would do with their new puppy.

“You think you’re organized, but you’re not organized. Just getting stuff together to take because you’re being evacuated,” Debbie said.

“And not knowing then how long you’re going to be out,” Dale said.

“And what was going to happen,” Debbie said. “The first thing we did was take our pup to the vet so we knew she was safe. Then, we went to look for a room.”

A few days later, they were escorted back to collect some other essentials, but they were housed at a hotel at XTO’s expense for the duration. The Goudys said XTO officials made every effort to meet their needs during the course of the capping operation, including replacing refrigeration units and lost food.

“For this situation, XTO has been outstanding,” she said, adding that the blessing in this situation was that no one was hurt. “It’s a very big inconvenience to your normal, everyday living, but nobody was hurt, our home wasn’t destroyed. There’s too many bad thing that could have been.”

They are also waiting to see the extent of the lasting impact on the area’s environment.

“That whole hillside, that whole valley was grey with that…gas and brine that was blowing up out of the well,” Dale said.

“My spring flowers came up and the robins were out,” Debbie said. “If the flowers are coming up and the robins are out, the air has to be halfway decent.”

Carole Matesick, Dale’s sister and neighbor, stayed at a property owned by the Amity United Methodist Church for the duration, but was happy to be coming home again.

“When this happened, when the well blew, we got a call right away on the phone. It said evacuate, everybody leave immediately,” she said. “We’re just blessed that we had this place to stay. My brother lives up here, and they had to move to a hotel. We’re close to home and I’m the organist at the church, so that works.”

She also said XTO had been attentive.

“They told us to keep our bills and they’ll reimburse us, and they’re having our houses cleaned,” Matesick said. “It’ll be good to be home. I’m thankful that we’ve had such a nice place to stay…I wouldn’t like to do it again.”

 Source:  Times Leader

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