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EPA Report Links Statoil Fire in Ohio to Broken Tubing

A preliminary report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) detailing the response of federal, state and local officials in the days after a fire and explosion last month caused significant damage at an eight-well pad operated by Statoil ASA in Monroe County, OH, suggests a broken hydraulic line was likely the cause.

The EPA said the broken line sprayed fluid onto hot equipment during preparations to hydraulically fracture (frack) seven wells at the Eisenbarth pad near the West Virginia state line, creating a fire that the agency estimated caused more than 30 explosions that generated shrapnel and slowed fire suppression efforts. At the time of the incident, which Statoil reported at about 9 a.m. on June 28 (see Shale DailyJune 30), a large fish kill in a creek approximately 3.5 miles away from the pad was believed to be caused by chemical additives and other products that escaped the blaze in flowback and firefighting water.

But although EPA said more than 14,000 dead fish, frogs, crustaceans and salamanders were collected from the creek, there remains no direct link to the incident. Statoil hired the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health to collect water samples and conduct other tests around the site, but the center, along with officials from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, said no toxic chemicals or anything else abnormal that might have killed the marine life were found in the water.

"Upon arrival, USEPA observed uncontrolled runoff of liquids from the Eisenbarth well pad from the south and west sides of the site," the agency report said. "Numerous fires were observed across the well pad and a wellhead was observed releasing flowback water. All runoff from the site flowed downhill to the south and west and entered an unnamed tributary to Opossum Creek which discharges to the Ohio River."

At least 16 different products, including many such as diesel fuel, hydraulic oil, hydrochloric acid, isoproponal and ethylene glycol used for or in preparation for fracking, were on the pad at the time of the explosion, the EPA said in its report.

The agency also said that a minimum of 300,000 gallons of water was sprayed onto the fire that aided those products from escaping the pad until containment structures were constructed by the company. A voluntary evacuation order that affected 25 homes within one mile of the site was lifted a day after the fire, while ongoing air tests in the community that lasted until July 5 showed low-levels of volatile organic compounds in the air.

Statoil said the wells were shut-in before the fire could damage them, but 20 blender and pump trucks, along with other surface equipment was a total loss. No injuries were reported in the blast. Operations at the site remain suspended and a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said the state's investigation is continuing, with fines and violations still a possibility (see Shale DailyJuly 3).

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