Monday, December 22, 2014


From The Columbus Dispatch

VIDEO LINK - Monroe County Resident Describes Evacuation of his Family but Won't Leave his Animals Behind

SARDIS, Ohio — This hollow used to be peaceful.
Not long ago, Randy Heater and his daughters would roam the Monroe County hills to hunt, setting up deer stands on quiet fall days when the air was still.

On Dec. 13, that stillness shattered.

Crews lost control of a fracked well on a hilltop near Heater’s house. Natural gas surged into the air.
From their backyard, less than a mile from the well, the Heaters heard it. The rushing gas sounded like a broken air hose, Heater said — a deep, steady WHOOOOSH.

As the weekend approached, gas was still spewing uncontrollably.

Families within a mile and a half of the well have been evacuated, although not all have left their homes. They’ve been allowed back during the day, to grab clothes and feed animals, but they are supposed to be elsewhere at night.

The county emergency management agency says the families might be allowed home for good by Wednesday, Christmas Eve, but officials aren’t sure.

“We weren’t given any answers,” Heater said last week. “The only people who would talk to us is the volunteer fire department, and they weren’t getting any answers. And I understood at first. But this is Day 6, right here, and we still don’t have answers.”

The well is just outside Sardis, a community of about 560 people about 145 miles east of Columbus.
Over the past week, people there banded together.

Families who live near the well have stayed with parents or siblings or friends, sleeping on couches and recliners and living-room floors.

An elementary school that closed in 2011 has been open as a shelter for families during the day.
Triad Hunter, the company that owns the well, didn’t return calls last week. But people who were evacuated from their homes said the company told them they would be reimbursed for meals, mileage and hotel rooms.
There aren’t many hotels near Sardis, however, and the closest ones, in New Martinsville, W.Va., are filled, mostly by temporary oil and gas workers. Triad Hunter offered to put people up in hotels in Marietta, a 45-minute drive from Sardis.

Triad Hunter has offices in Marietta but is headquartered 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.

It is the latest in a string of incidents this year involving fracked wells and the oil and gas industry in Monroe County, and it has some residents questioning how safe those wells are.

“If this is a one-time deal, and this happens once, fine,” said Nicole Reed, who lives near the well and was told to leave her home with her husband and three daughters. “But you just wonder how many times are things like this going to happen? Are we always going to have to have a bag packed."

Over the summer, a well caught fire not far from Sardis, sending a thick plume of black smoke into the air and causing 25 families to flee their homes. Many of Reed’s relatives lived near that well and had to find other places to stay.

The debate over horizontal hydraulic fracturing — commonly called fracking — is raging across the country as states weigh the benefits against the costs.

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 as the industry has grown in Ohio, so, too, have the number of emergencies.

In October, a well blew out in Jefferson County, forcing 400 families to evacuate their homes. Last month, an electrician working on a pump near a fracked well in Noble County was killed in an explosion.

No one has been injured by the gas spewing out of this well, and the gas hasn’t caught fire.

And some families who live near the well say they accept the risks.

“They have got top-notch people in here working on it,” said Scotty McPeek, who can see the wellhead from his home. “I absolutely trust them.”

On Friday, McPeek and his wife, Ada, were at their home. Mr. McPeek said he could see the gas spewing out of the well from a window in his house. He said the plume went “about 50, 60, 70 feet high.”

Both McPeek and his wife are retired, and they’ve been staying with their son. The disruption to their lives is minimal, he said.

For other families, like the Reeds, the disruption has been much larger.

Reed, a reading teacher at a local elementary school, has wrapped her daughters’ Christmas presents and is keeping them in her classroom because she doesn’t know where they’ll be for the holiday.

She told her daughters: “Santa can find us wherever we are, as long as we’re together.”

“It actually puts Christmas into perspective,” she said.

Reed isn’t angry, yet. But she would like more information about what is happening near her home.
Heater and his family feel the same way.

For Heater, the jobs and money that oil and gas create don’t come close to outweighing the risks.

“I don’t think the trade-off is worth it. I haven’t thought that from the beginning,” he said. “ I feel like the valley sold its soul to the devil.”

Saturday, December 6, 2014


A company has bid $6.2 million plus royalties to drill for natural gas and oil under state wildlife conservation land in Tyler County.

Denver-based Antero Resources is offering to pay more than $12,000 an acre for fracking rights under Conaway Run Wildlife Management Area, state Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said. The bid includes a 20-percent royalty on what's extracted, and the lease would likely last three years.

The bid on the 518-acre wildlife area's oil and natural gas rights was unveiled Friday in Charleston. The land is used for hunting, fishing and camping, and includes a 100-yard rifle range.

Houston-based Noble Energy submitted a bid for about half the upfront money with the same royalty rate.

"One of those two bids is probably a record," Burdette said.

It's the second time West Virginia has offered to let companies drill horizontally under its land. Leasing the land for the technique called hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, is a new venture for West Virginia, and officials think it could produce plenty of money during uncertain budget times.

In West Virginia's first try at fracking leases, officials opened bids for 22 miles of state land under the Ohio River in September. Six miles are under contract negotiations and another 11 miles are out for bid or will be shortly. Seven additional miles are being considered for bid openings.

Environmental groups cautioned Gov. Early Ray Tomblin to reconsider the Ohio River leases, since they would allow drilling beneath a river that provides drinking water to millions of people.

Burdette said the drilling would occur about a mile under the river. State environmental regulators would still have to approve permits for the operations.

All drilling equipment would need to be off-site of the state lands, Burdette added.

Other properties the state is thinking about leasing rights for include: 131 acres under Fish Creek in Marshall County; Jug Wildlife Management Area in Tyler County; and 24 acres in Doddridge County.

No fracking contracts have yet been finalized, however. All the money from the state's fracking leases would go back into Division of Natural Resources needs, like upgrades at state parks.


Thursday, December 4, 2014


Drilling involves boring down to rock formations that contain oil or natural gas. Fluid or “mud” is circulated down hole to keep the drill bit cool and lubricated, and it returns to the surface carrying rock debris known as “cuttings.” During completion, fluids and cuttings within the well bore are removed. Some gas usually exits as these materials come to the surface, and the gas is typically flared.
AIR: Exhaust fumes from drilling equipment; venting and flaring of natural gas.
SOIL: Muds and cuttings, which may contain chemical additives, salts, metals and hydrocarbons, are often stored in pits and buried on site. This may sterilize soils.
WATER: Contaminants in pit sludge may leach out of the soil or overflow the pit and contaminate nearby soils, surface waters and groundwater.

Hydraulic fracturing, a common stimulation technique, involves fracturing the target formation with high-pressure injection of various substances. After fracturing, some of the injected fluids and gas from the formation flow out of the well, and sand remains behind to prop open the fractures.
AIR: Exhaust fumes from heavy equipment; flaring or venting of gas; wastes stored in pits may contain volatile chemicals that escape into the air.
SOIL: Many fracturing chemicals are hazardous, and may contaminate soil if spilled on site.
WATER: Fracturing fluids may be injected into or come in contact with fresh water aquifers.Waste fluids stored in pits may contaminate surface or groundwater if pits leak or overflow.

Typically, during coalbed methane operations water must be removed from the coals before methane will flow to the well. Over time, water production tends to decrease. In conventional natural gas and oil formations, however, water production often increases with time, as the oil and gas are depleted. Produced water is piped or trucked to disposal ponds or underground injection wells; or discharged on land or into surface waters.
AIR: When stored in open pits volatile hydrocarbons (e.g., benzene) escape into the air. The pumping of shallow water may result in the migration of methane and H2S to from soil to air. Exhaust is created from water pumps powered by diesel or natural-gas-fired engines.
SOIL: salts, metals,hydrocarbons or traces of chemical additives in produced water may contaminate soil if spilled on the surface or stored in earthen pits.
WATER: produced water may contaminate waters through spills, pipelines breaks, leaks from storage ponds, or movement of injected water into a freshwater aquifer.

Dehydration. During separation, gas is separated from heavier hydrocarbons (e.g., oil and natural gas liquids), and water may also be “knocked out.” Dehydrators remove water from the gas stream. Separation and dehydration may occur at well sites, compressor stations, gas processing plants or oil storage sites (i.e., tank batteries).
AIR: Dehydrators and separators often vent large volumes of methane and volatile organic compounds.Dissolved Hydrocarbons in wastewater may escape into the air.
SOIL: Pits or tanks that store wastewater may leak or overflow and contaminate soil.
WATER: Wastewater may contain dissolved hydrocarbons,
sand and metals that can contaminate surface and groundwater.

Typically, diesel or natural gas fired engines provide power to compressors that, in turn, compress the gas. Some compressors are used to pull the gas out of wells, while other compressors push the gas along a pipeline. Field compression may occur at well sites. Centralized compressor facilities are required, however, to move large volumes of gas to and through larger gas transmission pipelines.
AIR: Engine exhaust; occasional venting of natural gas.
SOIL AND WATER: Soil and water pollution may occur due to spills or leaks of diesel or other fuel used to power the compressors.


Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes. Benzene is a known carcinogen. Toluene may affect the reproductive and central nervous systems; while ethylbenzene and xylenes may have respiratory and neurological effects. Venting of natural gas, Pits, Produced water, Dehydration

CH4 Methane
Main concern is the explosive nature of this gas. Venting of natural gas, Dehydration

A complex mixture of hydrocarbons. Both fuel and exhaust contains carcinogenic substances like benzene and PAHs. Stimulation fluids, Oil-based drilling muds, Engines/heavy equipment

Aggravates respiratory conditions, and affects neurological system, cardiovascular system and can cause central nervous system problems. Venting and flaring of natural gas (if present in the oil and gas formations), Migration from soils

Examples: arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, zinc and others. There are different potential health effects associated with each metal. Possible toxic effects include skin problems, hair loss, kidney damage, high blood pressure, increased cancer, neurological damage risk and others. Drilling muds, Stimulation fluids, Pits, Produced water, Venting and flaring, Diesel exhaust

React with VOCs to form ground-level ozone and smog, which can trigger respiratory problems. React with other chemicals to form particulate pollution, which can damage lungs and cause respiratory illness, heart conditions and premature death. Reacts with common organic chemicals to form toxics that may cause biological mutations. Compressor engines, Flaring, Diesel and natural gas engine exhaust

Several agencies have classified some PAHs as probable or possible carcinogens. Animal studies show reproductive effects. Diesel exhaust, Flaring, Pits.

Small particles suspended in air.  Can be inhaled and cause health effects like respiratory ailments, aggravation of asthma and allergies, painful breathing, shortness of breath, chronic bronchitis and premature death. May combine with other air pollutants to aggravate health problems. Some particulates, such as diesel exhaust are carcinogenic. Diesel exhaust, Pits (dust from), Venting and flaring

Reacts with other chemicals to form particulate pollution, which can damage lungs and cause respiratory illness, heart conditions and premature death.
Diesel and natural gas engine exhaust, Flaring

Volatile Organic Compounds, include BTEX formaldehyde and others. React with NOx to form ground-level ozone and smog, which can trigger respiratory problems. Can cause health problems such as cancer.
Venting and flaring of natural gas, Pits, Oily wastes, Diesel and natural gas engine exhaust, Compressors.