CNX violated state law in operations of Utica well that lost pressure, agency says |

CNX violated state law in operations of Utica well that lost pressure, agency says

Stephen Huba
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Natural gas flares from a well below Beaver Run Reservoir along Route 380 in Bell Township on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has issued a notice of violations to CNX Gas Co. for a Utica deep well in Washington Township that lost pressure during fracking operations in late January.

The notice cited CNX for “failure to construct and operate a well to ensure that the well integrity is maintained” and “failure to equip the well with casings of sufficient strength.”

CNX believes an isolated “casing integrity issue” about a mile underground was responsible for a significant drop in pressure at the Shaw 1G well near Beaver Run Reservoir during fracking Jan. 25-26. The pressure drop was accompanied by pressure increases at several nearby shallow oil and gas wells not owned by CNX — wells which were flared through Feb. 12.

CNX had successfully “killed” the problematic well by Feb. 4 by pumping heavy mud and cement into the well, essentially sealing it off.

All hydraulic fracturing operations on the Shaw pad remain suspended while CNX investigates the incident, which the DEP characterized as a “catastrophic loss of pressure” and a “well control emergency.” There are three Marcellus wells and four Utica wells on the pad, according to the DEP.

In addition to the violation, the DEP asked for the following information from CNX within 10 days of the notice:

• A detailed plan and schedule to conduct analysis/explanation of the root cause(s) of the failure(s) at the Shaw 1G well/casing that resulted in the loss of control of the well

•A timeline and description of actions taken by CNX from first becoming aware of the situation until CNX regained control of the well and secured the well, as well as any measures taken to ensure public safety

• A summary of corrective actions that CNX has implemented or plans to implement at all CNX well sites to prevent similar failures in the future

• A detailed explanation and plan that identifies resources, contractors and potential remedies to improve the response efficiency to similar events in the future

• The history of the Shaw 1G well since spudding.

CNX has informed the DEP that it intends to permanently plug the well.

“While our root cause analysis into the matter is ongoing, we continue to believe that the casing breech is isolated to this well. We are working with the department to provide the requested information,” CNX spokesman Brian Aiello said.

The Canonsburg company recently told investors that $30 million of capital expenditures related to the Shaw pad are included in the 2019 budget.

“The remaining three wells on the Shaw pad are not in the 2019 or 2020 carryover plan, but remain an opportunity for completion or (turn-in-line) in the near future,” the company said.

The notice of violation does not constitute an enforcement action or the DEP’s final evaluation of the incident.

“The department continues to receive information from CNX but does not have a timeline for the conclusion of its investigation,” DEP spokeswoman Lauren Fraley said.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
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