The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has fined Talisman Energy USA Inc. $51,478 for a well control incident that prompted the company to shut down all North American hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) operations in early 2011.

An investigation by DEP and Talisman of the well -- located on state forest land in Tioga County -- found that a needle valve failed on Jan. 17, 2011 and couldn't be shut off. Although the incident did not cause a fire or explosion, the well shot around 21,000 gallons of hydrofracking fluid and sand into the air for more than three hours, tearing through the secondary containment liner of the well pad (see Shale Daily, Jan. 26, 2011). Talisman and contractor CUDD Well Control remotely closed a hydraulic valve above the master valve, allowing the fluid to flow back through the production test separator, and installed a "hammer union" as a new pipe connector.

"Fortunately, Talisman responded quickly and most of the release did not escape secondary containment," DEP north central Regional Director Nels Taber said, noting that the spill did not impact any streams, wetlands or private water wells. A DEP inspection soon after found that Talisman "had repaired the damaged liner, replaced the failed equipment and removed contaminated soil beneath the liner."

Talisman took a "voluntary fracking stand down" for nearly two weeks at the time while it investigated the matter.

The DEP previously fined Talisman $24,608 for a March 2010 diesel fuel spill in Bradford County (see Shale Daily, Jan. 10, 2011).

The newer fine is small by recent Pennsylvania standards. The DEP fined Chief Oil & Gas LLC $180,000 for two 2010 violations in Somerset County (see Shale Daily, June 29, 2011) and fined Chesapeake Energy Corp. nearly $1.09 million for contaminating private water supplies in Bradford and for violations related to a tank fire in Washington County (see Shale Daily, May 18, 2011).