Chevron: Fire could burn until middle of next week

February 15, 2014
Earlier this week, employees of Wild Well Control of Houston, Texas, remove equipment at the Greene County Fairgrounds in Waynesburg to be used in extinquishing the fire at a Dunkard Township gas well. - Tara Kinsell / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Although efforts are under way to extinguish a fire that has been burning since early Tuesday at a Chevron Appalachia well site in Dunkard Township, Greene County, officials said it could still be several days before the fire is completely out.

During a phone conference Saturday, Chevron officials provided a glimpse of their efforts over the last five days and laid out their plan of action for continued safety and well containment. Blake Loke, incident commander for Chevron, said crews are busy removing equipment from the scene and constructing a diversion tube that would divert the gas away from the site so crews could work safely. A large crane remains on the well pad.

Loke said crews hope to have the fire out by Wednesday and the wells capped shortly thereafter.

The well fire is a result of an explosion that happened about 6:45 a.m. Tuesday at Chevron’s Lanco 7H well, which left one worker with minor injuries and another worker still unaccounted for. Pennsylvania State Police is handling the investigation into the unaccounted person, and Chevron refused to provide details.

Trip Oliver, who handles policy, government and public affairs for Chevron, said the cause of the explosion is still undetermined. The site was not yet producing gas. It’s future is not clear, and Loke said officials are working on a plan to kill the wells if needed.

Chevron was unable to provide an estimate on the amount of gas that has burned over the last five days, but Chevron said the gas was burning “clean, and that it burns similar to gas burning in a propane tank.”

Loke said Chevron and the state Department of Environmental Protection are monitoring air quality and the neighboring communities are not at risk.

The snowy winter has slowed efforts. Oliver and Loke said crews will eventually work around-the-clock once weather permits. Loke hopes to have the diversion tube and a heat shield, an enormous piece of sheet metal that will separate the wells, in place by Wednesday.

In the meantime, Loke said Wild Well Control, a Houston, Texas, company contracted to extinguish the flames and control the well, will continue setting up equipment for firefighting and site containment. Loke said 20 500-barrel tanks are being set up. Fresh water will be brought in to fill those tanks, and a temporary emergency permit has been granted to provide additional water.

John Poister, DEP spokesman, said the DEP granted an emergency permit allowing Wild Well Control to withdraw roughly 1.25 million gallons of water daily from Dunkard Creek

Poister, like Chevron officials, was unable to provide a specific timeline on the continuing actions.

“No one is rushing Wild Well Control to get this done,” Poister said. “Our first concern is safety and making sure that no additional problems arise.”

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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