The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has ordered C.C. Forbes, a contractor that had provided post-hydrofracturing services at an EOG Resources well in Clearfield County, PA, to suspend all post-hydraulic fracturing activities on Marcellus Shale wells in the state as DEP continues its investigation of a June 3 blowout at the EOG well.

The DEP order requires the Washington, PA-based contractor to provide site and equipment records specific to the well, including any written, photographic and video documentation, according to DEP Secretary John Hanger. The company must also furnish the names of its employees who were working at the site or have knowledge of the equipment used there, and the employees must be made available to DEP for questioning, Hanger said.

“We need to fully investigate the equipment used by this company to ensure that other sites in Pennsylvania are not in danger of experiencing similar blowouts that could place the public or our environment at risk,” Hanger said. “This was a serious incident that could have resulted in the loss of life or significant damage to our natural resources and the department is prepared to use all means necessary to find the cause of the blowout.”

The order requires C.C. Forbes, a division of Alice, TX-based Forbes Energy Services, to cease operations until receiving DEP’s written consent to resume.

Forbes said it voluntarily idled its two workover rigs in the Marcellus on June 4, five days prior to receiving the DEP order, and has hired an independent third-party consulting firm, Bobby Jones and Associates, to investigate the incident.

“While we took immediate action after last week’s unfortunate incident, the cease order from DEP was expected under the circumstances,” said Forbes Energy CEO John Crisp. “We are working and cooperating with DEP in our investigation and look forward to its resolution. Idling of the two rigs will have no material impact on our future results of operations.”

The well “experienced a control issue” at about 8 a.m. June 3, EOG said. A service rig operated by C.C. Forbes was in the final stages of completing the well when the blowout occurred. The well, which had produced brine water and natural gas, was shut in and secured shortly after noon June 4, the Houston-based company said. Three other wells on the same pad that have been drilled and fractured remain plugged and are not in danger, according to DEP.

Natural gas and fracing fluid shot approximately 75 feet high and flowed from the well for approximately 16 hours, according to Hanger. Approximately 35,000 gallons of drilling wastewater were released during the incident, he said. On Thursday Forbes said approximately 834 barrels of salt water and flowback fluids were released before the well was shut in, the majority of which was collected on site.

There were no injuries, no fire and no significant impact to the environment as a result of the incident, EOG said.

The DEP on Monday ordered EOG to suspend all of its natural gas well drilling activities in the state (see Daily GPI, June 8). While the order prohibits EOG from drilling activities for up to seven days, from engaging in fracing operations for up to 14 days and from completing or initiating post-fracing operations for 30 days in any wells in the state, none of the activities may resume until DEP has completed a comprehensive investigation of the incident and EOG has implemented any required changes, according to Hanger. EOG operates approximately 265 active wells in Pennsylvania, 117 of them in the Marcellus Shale formation.

A preliminary DEP investigation determined that a blowout preventer (BOP) on the well failed, but the agency does not know if that failure was the main cause of the incident. 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.

America’s Natural Gas Alliance, the American Gas Association and other organizations have said they have no comment on the EOG suspension because investigation of the incident is pending.

An unrelated explosion Monday at an AB Resources well targeting the Marcellus Shale near Moundsville, WV, has prompted the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to order AB Resources to halt all of its operations in that state until the cause of an explosion can be determined (see related story).

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