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In Latest Incident, Hilcorp Seeks Cause of Weekend Wellsite Fire

Hilcorp Energy Co. and state regulators are still trying to determine what caused a separator to catch fire early last Saturday at one of its well sites in Mercer County, PA, near the Ohio border.

Emergency crews responded to the blaze and found the piece of equipment used to separate oil, gas and water, engulfed in flames, said Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) spokesman John Poister. First responders, he said, allowed the fire to extinguish itself and both the company and the DEP are conducting an investigation into the cause.

The incident prompted the evacuation of roughly 25 people living within a half-mile of the fire, Poister said. That move was a precaution, and they were allowed to return to their homes about two hours later. No injuries were reported.

Hilcorp spokesman Justin Furnace said the separator was housed in a metal building at the edge of the well pad and added that the "fire was short in duration and confined to the separator."

The fire occurred at the eight-well Radkowski pad in Shenango Township, 45 miles north of Pittsburgh. Hilcorp shut the wells down immediately, Poister said, but the separator was "completely destroyed," which affected production at two wells on the pad.

The incident is the latest in a series of setbacks for privately-held Hilcorp in the Appalachian Basin, where its operations are focused in northeast Ohio and Lawrence and Mercer counties in Pennsylvania. Last month, two storage tanks caught fire and exploded at one of its Mercer County well sites, prompting more than a dozen fire departments to respond.

The company also recently dropped a highly controversial bid for a forced pooling request in western Pennsylvania, where it wanted to establish four drilling units across 3,000 acres of land (see Shale Daily, Sept. 2). That effort lasted more than a year, and the company cited a need to move forward with development in giving up on the request.

Last winter, Ohio regulators shut down operations at a Hilcorp well site in northeast Ohio after they determined that stimulation operations had caused a series of small earthquakes in the area (see Shale Daily, March 11;April 11).

Poister said it was too early in the investigation to say if the company would face regulatory action for the recent fires.

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