A natural gas leak at an unconventional well operated by an affiliate of American Energy Partners LP forced an overnight evacuation order in southeast Ohio’s Jefferson County after emergency management officials feared it could lead to an explosion.
A mandatory evacuation order went out for a two-mile radius of the well, which encompassed about 400 homes, said Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle. No fire or explosion broke out at the site, and the well has since stabilized. The evacuation order lifted early Wednesday as well.
McCorkle said some sort of mechanical malfunction at the wellhead caused dry gas to leak. No fluids or flames were visible at the time, she said, but the company acted quickly to shut off all ignition sources such as lights and generators before contacting emergency responders. Halliburton well control affiliate Boots & Coots responded to a call to stabilize the well, McCorkle added.
The cause of the incident was still unclear Wednesday, and McCorkle said it would likely be a few days before they determined was started the leak. American Energy’ affiliate company, American Energy Utica LLC, will soon conduct downhole testing to see if they can salvage the well, she said.
ODNR issued 46 horizontal permits in Jefferson County. Only three of those ended up issued in Cross Creek to American Energy, where state records indicate two are in production. Jefferson County Commissioner Thomas Graham said American Energy likely acquired the acreage from Hess Corp. when it sold 74,000 acres in the Utica Shale earlier this year.
He added commissioners have been told the gathering system in the area appears overburdened with wells and plans were in the works to expand its capabilities.
The incident was the latest in a series of others that occurred in the state. Last Friday, there was an explosion at an Eclipse Resources Corp. site in Guernsey County, OH, where one worker ended up in the hospital with serious injuries.
Early Tuesday, a stretch of eight-inch condensate pipeline in Monroe County, OH, serving Dominion Transmission’s Natrium Processing and Fractionation facility in West Virginia ruptured and caught fire before eventually burning itself out, officials said. Although there were no injuries, the fire reportedly burned several acres of woodland.