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Gas well explodes in southeastern Greene County

February 11, 2014 - Ben Klein
Update: 2:54 p.m. 1 injured, 1 missing at SW Pa. gas well fire

PITTSBURGH (AP) — One worker was injured and another went missing after a natural gas well exploded and caught fire Tuesday in southwestern Pennsylvania, near the West Virginia border.

Chevron spokesman Trip Oliver said the fire was reported about 6:45 a.m. at the Lanco 7H well in Dunkard Township, near Bobtown, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh. Oliver said one person was reported hospitalized and another was unaccounted for.

Department of Environmental Protection spokesman John Poister said the well was located in a rural area where there were no nearby homes or schools. He said a DEP team at the site found no signs of threats to public health, noting that the fire was burning off volatile organic compounds in the gas.

State police established a half-mile perimeter around the well.

Poister said Chevron had previously completed drilling and hydraulically fracturing, or fracking, the well and was in the final stages of using steel pipe to hook it up to a pipeline distribution network for production.

"We want to find out how this happened and why," Poister said, adding that the explosion was the first serious Marcellus Shale well blowout in western Pennsylvania.

The Marcellus Shale formation lies under large parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and other neighboring states; it's currently the country's most productive natural gas field.

Poister said well blowout experts from Wild Well Control in Houston arrived at the Pittsburgh airport around noon and headed to the site to work out a plan to extinguish the fire. The Texas company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It said on its website that Wild Well responds to more than 85 percent of blowouts in the U.S.

(AP) - A gas well near Bobtown, Greene County, exploded this morning, drawing emergency crews and ambulances to the scene, where approximately 20 employees were working, according to Greene County officials.

Of them, 19 workers had been accounted for as of 8:48 a.m., according to Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene. It is not yet clear what sparked the explosion.

"I'm praying that everyone is safe, and that if anyone is unaccounted for that they are found alive and well," Rep. Snyder said.

The explosion at the Chevron-owned well at 146 Water Tank Road just after 7 a.m. caused a fire that forced Pennsylvania state troopers from the Waynesburg barracks to close the road to traffic and establish a half-mile perimeter around the site, according to state police and Rep. Snyder. Firefighters from Bobtown/Dunkard Township and Greensboro have responded to the scene, according to Dunkard Township supervisor Joe Gacek.

Chevron has sent its own response team to the site to help put out the fire, Rep. Snyder said. The state Department of Environmental Protection and the Greene County Emergency Management Agency also are on the scene, and help from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Red Cross has been requested, she said.

No schools or major businesses have been affected by the fire, she said.

Mr. Gacek said he heard a "bang or boom" just after 7 a.m., and then he and a fellow supervisor who also is a volunteer firefighter spotted a fireball on a wooded hilltop within sight of the township building.

"We looked outside and I said, 'Wow, I hope everyone's OK,' " Mr. Gacek said.


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