Letter to the editor: Fracking worst-case scenario
The worst-case scenario for a fracked deep gas well is when the gas somehow escapes the confinement of the casing pipe and ends up outside of it. This gas, which is under great pressure, then blasts its way to the surface and creates a plume hundreds of feet high. This situation in a deep well is called a blowout.
Think of the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park, which is a plume of high-pressure steam. In the case of a deep fracking well, this plume contains all the nasty stuff inside the fracked well: fracking fluids, saline water, drilling mud, VOCs (volatile carcinogenic organic carbons such as benzine), radioactive particles, etc., and, of course, a highly explosive blast of natural gas.
This is what nearly happened on a Utica fracking well on the property of Westmoreland Municipal Authority’s Beaver Run Reservoir. If a blowout had happened here, the plume of contaminants would have rained down into the reservoir and contaminated it, and the flow of potable water to 130,000 customers in four counties would have had to stop. Fortunately, the blowout gas found a path of least resistance halfway up into porous strata containing old conventional gas wells. Instead of blowing its way to the surface, the gas vented through these old wells, which had to be flared.
Penn Township, Westmoreland County