Gas well fire cleanup progressing

February 18, 2014
Shown is a copy of the letter and pizza gift certificate Chevron gave out to nearly 100 residents impacted by the Feb. 11 explosion of a gas wells in Dunkard Township.

If the weather continues to cooperate, Chevron officials are hopeful a charred crane can be removed today from a well pad in Dunkard Township and capping procedures could get under way by the end of the week.

John Sanclemente, a senior drilling superintendent with Chevron, said Tuesday a heat shield was placed around a third well, not more than 30 yards from two well heads that exploded and caught fire Feb. 11, injuring one worker and likely killing a second.

The missing worker, identified as Ian McKee, employed by Cameron International of Houston, Texas, has not been recovered.

Sanclemente also said during a conference call that he still cannot comment on what ignited the wells.

The well fire was the result of an explosion at Chevron’s Lanco 7H well, and until the crane is removed and workers from Wild Well Control secure the site, state police will have to continue to wait to get close enough to search for McKee’s body.

Sanclemente said, “As soon as we safely control the well, we will turn the investigation over to the state police.”

Meanwhile, efforts are in place to install water storage tanks at the site to cool equipment and prevent another fire.

But as Chevron officials finished answering questions about the technical aspect of what is ahead in the operation, Trip Oliver, Chevron’s public relations manager for the region, was explaining the company’s decision to provide residents living near the well site with gift certificates to Bobtown Pizza.

The company purchased about 100 gift certificates, each with a retail value of $12. Accompanying the gift certificate for one large pizza and a 2-liter bottle of soda was a letter which reads: “Chevron recognizes the effect this has had on the community. We value being a responsible member of this community and will continue to strive to achieve incident-free operations. We are committed to taking action to safeguard our neighbors, our employees, our contractors and the environment.”

Raging Chicken Press, a progressive activist media website, published this letter from Lee Ann Wainwright, a Chevron spokeswoman in charge of policy, government and public affairs. “As part of our comprehensive response to the Lanco well fire that occurred last Tuesday, we have communicated with area residents to answer any questions or concerns. Our operational response has included construction activity, resulting in increased traffic and congestion in the area. As part of our meetings with a small group of immediate neighbors impacted by this activity, we have offered a token of appreciation for their patience during this time. We also wanted to support Bobtown Pizza, a local business that has been providing meals to our first responders and workers at the well site. Chevron’s priorities remain responding to this incident safely. We appreciate the strong support we have received from nearby residents and our first responders.”

This sentiment was echoed by Oliver, who said, “This operation was in response to the inconvenience to those who live near the well site.”

Although it was reported Chevron purchased 100 gift certificates for $1,200 (last year Chevron made a $21.4 billion in profits), Oliver said company representatives went door-to-door to approximately 30 people in the vicinity.

When asked what the response was, Oliver said, “Most appreciated the fact we visited their homes. The pizza coupon was secondary.”

While the blogosphere was blazing with sarcasm about the company’s efforts to placate residents with pizza gift certificates that expire May 1, the owner of Bobtown Pizza was more understanding.

Jim Scritchfield said Tuesday Chevron asked if I would be interested in doing it (providing the pizza certificates), I said ‘yes,’” he said.

“They were just trying to do something nice for the community, actually,” he said. “I don’t understand why they are bashing them.”

Jon Stevens was the Observer-Reporter’s Greene County bureau chief. During his 41 years with the O-R, he covered county government, courts and politics, and won statewide and regional writing awards.

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