LEROY TOWNSHIP - Following a natural gas well blowout at one of its wells here Wednesday, Chesapeake Energy has halted all its East Coast completion operations, according to Brian L. Grove, senior director of corporate development.
"Chesapeake has voluntarily suspended all completion operations in Pennsylvania as we evaluate this incident," he said.
Grove said the incident, which released thousands of gallons of flowback fluids into a tributary that feeds into nearby Towanda Creek, was caused by a "faulty mount" in the wellhead casing.
CHERYL R. CLARKE/Sun-Gazette
Cows graze in the fields below a natural gas well in Leroy Township along Leroy Mountain Road Thursday, following a blow-out at the wellhead that released thousands of gallons of hydrofracturing flowback fluids.
Before hitting the tributary, the toxic flowback fluids flowed into surrounding fields where cows were grazing, but according to Grove, "there were no injuries and there continues to be no danger to the public."
A temporary fence was erected to keep the cattle away from the contaminated ground, he said.
Grove emphasized the breach had "nothing to do with the well casing."
"The well construction is intact and sound," he said. The location of the breach is in a wellhead connection, and our investigative efforts will initially focus there; there is no evidence of a downhole casing failure of any type."
The incident caused seven families along Leroy Mountain Road to be temporarily evacuated until the well head could be brought under control Thursday.
Overnight, Chesapeake removed all well-completion equipment from the location and brought in specialized equipment in preparation for additional work to completely seal the leak.
"Well-control efforts have been successful in significantly reducing flow from the leak," Grove said.
The well started emitting "limited amounts of gas" early Thursday, and both the Bradford County EMA and Chesapeake performed computer gas-plume modeling in expectation of this potential progression and have come to the same conclusion that any natural-gas releases will not pose a risk to the area's public safety, he added.
Crews were finishing repairs to the berm surrounding the location Thursday, but "all fluids were being safely contained in our extensive secondary-containment systems located within this berm, which serve as further protective measures before the location berm and fully prepared to prevent fluids from leaving the location," he said.
According to DEP emergency response official Jack McKernan, who was on the scene Thursday, the environmental impact of the spill is "yet to be determined, but the initial testing of area waterways has shown minimal impact, if any."
"Our oil and gas staff collected multiple samples along with Groundwater Environmental Services, from Williamsport," he added.
That sampling will continue "for awhile," he said.
Any cleanup steps also are "yet to be determined," McKernan added, as well as any fines that may or may not be levied against Chesapeake.