A June 3 blowout at an EOG Resources well in Clearfield County, PA, was caused primarily by untrained personnel and a failure to use proper well control procedures, according to a report issued Tuesday by Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Well operator EOG and its contractor, C.C. Forbes LLC, lost control of the well while performing post-fracturing well cleanout activities, said DEP Secretary John Hanger.

"The blowout in Clearfield County was caused by EOG Resources and its failure to have proper barriers in place. This incident was preventable and should never have occurred," Hanger said.

DEP has fined EOG $353,400 and C.C. Forbes $46,600 to cover the cost of the agency's response to the incident and the investigation, Hanger said. EOG has also been ordered to take nine corrective actions and C.C. Forbes six corrective actions to avoid a repeat of the incident, he said.

The Punxsutawney Hunt Club #36H well, which is in an unpopulated area about 11 miles from Penfield, PA, "experienced a control issue" at about 8 a.m. EDT June 3, according to EOG (see Daily GPI, June 8). There were no injuries, no fire and no significant impact to the environment as a result of the incident, EOG said. A preliminary DEP investigation determined that a blowout preventer (BOP) on the well failed. EOG said it appears that the seal integrity between the pipe rams of the BOP and the tubing was compromised, allowing pressurized fluids and some natural gas to flow.

Following a 40-day suspension of operations in Pennsylvania, EOG Resources and C.C. Forbes were permitted to resume all well completion activities, DEP said Tuesday. DEP had previously allowed EOG to resume work at two wells determined to have no environmental or operational violations (see Daily GPI, June 14) and, two weeks later, gave the company a green light to resume hydraulic fracturing activities in the state (see Daily GPI, June 28).

EOG operates approximately 297 active wells in Pennsylvania, 139 of them in the Marcellus Shale formation, according to DEP.

C.C. Forbes, a contractor that had provided post-hydraulic fracturing services at the EOG well, had previously been ordered by DEP to suspend all post-hydraulic fracturing activities on Marcellus Shale wells in the state (see Daily GPI, June 11). Washington, PA-based C.C. Forbes is a division of Alice, TX-based Forbes Energy Services.

The report issued Tuesday was compiled by John Vittitow, who was hired by DEP to conduct an independent investigation into all aspects of EOG's drilling operation. Vittilow's investigation was conducted alongside, but independently of, a separate DEP investigation, Hanger said.

In light of the investigation's findings, DEP has sent a letter to each company drilling into the Marcellus Shale "to ensure they understand proper well construction and emergency notification procedures," the agency said. Among other things, the letter informs drillers that BOP equipment must be tested immediately after installation and before its use, and a remote-controlled, independently powered BOP unit must be located a minimum of 100 feet from the well and operational during all post-frac cleanout operations.

"Today's letter from DEP puts forth a series of new regulations that have already been incorporated by many of our members as part of their regular wellsite operations," said Marcellus Shale Coalition President Kathryn Klaber. "Our industry is committed to continuously enhancing and improving our operations, and leveraging the opportunities of the Marcellus in a manner that's safe, efficient and beneficial to all Pennsylvanians."

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