An XTO Energy Inc. Utica Shale well in Belmont County, OH, is still leaking natural gas and brine water two weeks after it blew out when contractors were finishing completion operations.
The company, along with Cudd Well Control, has been working to kill the well. Federal, state and local agencies have also assisted in the environmental and regulatory response. No one was hurt in the incident. The cause remains unclear.
XTO spokeswoman Karen Matusic said the company finally removed a large crane on Wednesday that was toppled in the explosion, which occured on Feb. 15. There are three other producing wells on the pad that were shut-in after the incident. The crane fell on one of them, damaging a valve that needed replaced to prevent the possibility of another leak.
Heavy rains throughout the region have also caused delays, and the company continues to bring equipment on and off site. Crews were working to install a bridge on Wednesday that would provide two ways to access the pad. That’s being placed over a nearby creek. With most of the preparation completed, XTO and Cudd are planning to move ahead with their plan to kill the well and get it capped, Matusic said.
“It’s calmed down, I would say, but it’s still leaking gas and brine,” she added. “Probably what the plan is going to be is a controlled burn once we can go in there. We’ll burn that gas off. That’s the safest way to handle that.”
Matusic noted that the company will likely be able to place the other three wells back on production once the situation is resolved. Those include a Utica well and two vertical wells that XTO acquired when it purchased the property. It’s unclear, however, if the impacted well is salvageable.
About 100 people living within one mile of the pad were evacuated after the incident. They have since been allowed to return home. But those living in the four houses closest to the site are still under evacuation. XTO is paying for their expenses, Matusic said.