Emergency water permit issued for Greene County well fire
By Melissa Daniels
Published: Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, 11:18 a.m.
Fire crews hope to begin removing a hot, charred crane — one of the most difficult tasks in extinguishing a gas well fire in rural Greene County — on Tuesday, a Chevron official announced.
“We were hoping to be able to work 24-hours a day, but the weather has not allowed us to,” Blake Loke, incident commander for Chevron, said during a briefing on Saturday. “We are working as many daylight hours as we can.”
Once the well pad is clear, workers can place a “diversion tube” to move the gas away from the site and put up a heat shield to keep the flames from igniting other wells.
“What that will hopefully allow us to do is move the gas coming from the well away from the well head, so we can get crews in there to work,” Loke said.
The fire began with an explosion on Tuesday morning at the Dunkard drilling site. One worker suffered injuries, and another is missing.
Pennsylvania State Police are handling the investigation of the missing worker. Chevron spokesman Trip Oliver said the company won't release details about the worker, a contractor from Cameron International Corp.
The Department of Environmental Protection granted Chevron an emergency permit on Saturday to draw up to 1.15 million gallons of water daily from Dunkard Creek to extinguish the fire.
DEP spokesman John Poister said the creek is the nearest source of water.
“This is only for a temporary, short period of time, so we're not anticipating there's going to be any kind of permanent impact on the creek,” he said. “But they do need the water.”
Chevron plans to use the creek as a backup, Loke said.
The company will fill 20 500-barrel tanks with fresh water from other sources to use in fighting the fire.
Poister said DEP has equipment at each corner of the well pad to monitor air quality. DEP officials do not believe gas is lingering in the air, with testing by Chevron and DEP finding no air quality problems at the site or in the greater area.
“So much of the gas was burned off by the fire,” Poister said.
The site has three well holes, one of which, 7H, is burning continuously. Another fire at 6H burned intermittently through the week.
Chevron and its emergency response teams are working to control the fire. The company's Houston-based contractor, Wild Well Control, is assisting.
This is the first well explosion for Chevron at a Marcellus shale drilling site, Loke said.
Inclement weather has slowed the overall progress of clearing the well pad, Poister said. Overnight snow and a morning thaw left the access road to the site muddy and difficult to use. Stones were brought in to act as temporary pavement.
“There's no timetable for actually gaining control of the well pad,” Poister said. “It's just going to take as long as it's going to take.”
Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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