It took 10 days, but crews finally regained control of a blown-out well in eastern Ohio Dec. 23, after the well shot a plume of natural gas into the atmosphere and caused officials to evacuate about 30 homes.
After workers replaced a broken wellhead, everyone who ended up forced from their residence for a week and a half made it home for Christmas, said Phillip Keevert, director of the Monroe County Emergency Management Agency.
After the well blew out Dec. 13, the county emergency-management agency ordered people who live within a 1.5-mile radius to find temporary housing.
State emergency responders said they feared the gas could cause an explosion. The well is on a hilltop near Sardis, about 145 miles east of Columbus.
Keevert later reduced the evacuation radius to a half-mile, after an emergency crew from Texas removed a broken wellhead from the well.
“Once they took the wellhead off, the gas was going straight up instead of off to the sides,” he said. “So we were able to bring the radius in.”
Keevert said the emergency crew put the replacement well in yesterday afternoon, tested the pressure and gave it the seal of approval.
Triad Hunter is the company that owns the well.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued a statement, saying the state would conduct an investigation to ensure the well is working properly before the company can continue operations.
Triad Hunter has offices in Marietta, in Washington County, and its headquarters is in Texas. The well that blew out on Dec. 13 had been dormant for about a year, according to state records. The company drilled the well, fracked it and plugged it in November 2013.
Crews were at the well on Dec. 13 to unplug it and prepare it for production, according to a statement on the company’s website. When they removed the cap, the pressure inside the well had gotten too high and gas poured out. Crews couldn’t bolt the cap back in place.
The incident heightened the debate over fracking.
To horizontally frack for oil and gas, companies drill deep underground, then turn the drill 90 degrees to cut into shale deposits. They shoot a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the well to fracture the shale. That frees oil and gas in the shale, which then flow back up the well to a wellhead.
Oil and gas industry officials say the method is safe, and they point to the number of wells that operate without incident across the United States.
But researchers have found fracking contributes to air pollution and climate change, and accidents at wells and pipelines have caused injuries and deaths.