West Virginia Fracking Explosion Leaves At Least 5 People Injured by Edward McAllister, Reuters, July 8, 2013, Huffingtonpost.com
An explosion over the weekend at a natural gas well site in West Virginia operated by Antero Resources injured at least five people, prompting state and federal investigations, local officials and Antero said on Monday. A spark triggered a flash explosion and a fire after a problem during the “flow back” process when drilling fluids are pumped into storage tanks, according to Pat Heaster, director of emergency services in Doddridge County, about 100 miles north of Charleston. The “flow back” process is necessary after hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which millions of gallons of water and chemicals are pumped deep underground to release natural gas from shale rock. Two storage tanks containing brine and fracking fluid from the well exploded at 4 a.m. EDT (0800 GMT) on Sunday Antero spokesman Alvyn Schopp said. Five workers were taken to hospital with burns, he said.
“We do not know the ignition source, but we suspect it was a methane explosion,” said Schopp, vice president at Antero, an oil and natural gas company controlled by Warburg Pincus LLC . Officials with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration were on the scene and investigating the incident. [Emphasis added]
Doddridge County gas fracking explosion injures at least 7 by David Gutman, July 7, 2013, The Charleston Gazette
At least seven people were injured, four of them very seriously, after an explosion at a hydraulic fracturing operation at a gas well drilling pad in Doddridge County early Sunday morning, according to emergency officials. Pat Heaster, the Doddridge County director of emergency services, said that four workers had potentially life-threatening burns. Those four were transferred to United Hospital Center in Bridgeport and then flown to West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh. Haster said that at least three, and possibly four, others were taken to area hospitals in private vehicles. Kevin Kilstrom, an executive with Antero Resources, which owns the well, said that a total of five workers were eventually flown to the burn center in Pittsburgh. A Doddridge County 911 dispatcher had earlier said that a total of eight people were injured in the explosion. … The five workers flown to West Penn Burn Center did not work for Antero, but worked for three different contractors, Kilstrom said. Kilstrom would not release the names of the contractors. Heaster said that he saw Nabors Industries trucks on the scene, indicating that they were one of the contractors.
The explosion happened just before 4 a.m. Sunday at the Hinterer 2H well on the Ruddy Alt pad on Brushy Fork in New Milton, Kilstrom said. Kilstrom said there are three wells on the pad. The explosion did not happen at the drilling rig itself, which wasn’t damaged, but at a nearby operation, Heaster said. “They were fracking a well and something exploded, either in the pump or around the pump,” Heaster said. Heaster said that they were pumping water down a well, part of the hydraulic fracturing process for recovering gas trapped in shale rock. He said that the tanks that recover the water and other materials after they return to the surface are what exploded. “The holding tanks that they were pumping into, that’s what exploded,” Heaster said. “It was a supplementary operation to the drilling process, the wellhead was not involved.” Trent said that the fire was about 50 yards from the wellhead. “Once we were on the scene the flames were never more than six to eight feet high,” Trent said. Kilstrom said they did not yet know the cause of the explosion. “We just started the investigation this morning,” he said. “Within the next couple days we should get to the facts, but you never know.” The explosion caused a residual fire. The Bancs Volunteer Fire Department, the Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Department and the West Union Volunteer Fire Department were all on the scene from about 4 a.m. until about 7 a.m. Sunday.
Antero has had safety problems in the past. Last August a spark at an Antero-owned well in Harrison County ignited methane gas several hundred feet underground, causing a fireball and a fire that burned for about an hour. Three workers were injured in that fire. DEP cited Antero for failure to maintain well control for that incident. DEP has cited Antero for 17 violations of state code in the past three years. Those have been primarily environmental violations — for things like failing to prevent waste runoff, failure to report discharges and contaminating waterways. One violation, from January 4, 2013, warned, “Imminent danger water supplys [sic] threatened by allowing pollutants to escape and flow into the waters of the state.” In June of last year Antero was drilling using water in Harrison County when they accidentally repressurized some old water wells, causing several geysers, one about 10 feet high, that flooded one nearby home and several garages. In March 2011, state regulators shut down an Antero gas well in Harrison County after mud contaminated with drilling chemicals spilled into a nearby stream. [Emphasis added]