DILLINER, Pa. - State environmental officials and expert firefighters brought in by Chevron monitored a burning Marcellus Shale natural gas well on Wednesday.
The well, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh in Dunkard Township, erupted into flames on Tuesday morning, injuring one worker and leaving one still unaccounted for. State Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Jon Poister said Wednesday night that the fire had partly extinguished itself due to moisture from inside the well. It will take time for multiple investigations to determine the cause.
Chevron said in a statement that it is attempting to control the fire by shutting off the flow of gas and trying to protect two other wells on the site.
The company said there was no drilling or hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a procedure that involves blasting water and chemicals deep into the ground, taking place at the well pad at the time of the fire. Crews had been preparing to run steel tubing, which is used to hook wells up to pipeline networks and start production.
The missing worker was employed by Houston-based Cameron International, spokeswoman Sharon Sloan said Wednesday. Sloan said the company doesn't know anything more about the cause of the fire or have details about the missing employee.
Poister said experts from Houston-based Wild Well Control arrived Tuesday evening to begin working on a plan to extinguish the fire and were hoping to have it extinguished and capped today. The Texas company specializes in responding to well site fires around the country, including one in Indiana Township, near Pittsburgh, that killed two welders in 2010.
Poister said air monitors will be placed around the remote well pad site, which is on top of a ridge, and around houses nearby, to check air quality levels once the fire is out. Chevron expressed "sincere regret to those who may be affected."
Chevron said its normal operations in the Appalachian region have been reduced "to ensure we are able to dedicate the appropriate personnel and resources to respond to this."