The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) has ordered AB Resources to halt all of its operations in the state until the cause of an explosion this week at an AB Resources-owned and operated well near Moundsville, WV, can be determined.

The explosion occurred about 1 a.m. Monday about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh (see Daily GPI, June 8). Fort Worth, TX-based Union Drilling Inc. was operating a rig when it apparently hit an inactive coal mine shaft, igniting methane gas that had collected there, according to WVDEP. The incident injured seven workers and a 50-foot flame continues to burn at the site, WVDEP said Thursday.

WVDEP said it has issued two notices of violation to AB Resources for violations of the conditions of its permit. The notices cited AB Resources, which is the permit holder for the site where the incident occurred, for failing to set casing at the permitted depth and for inaccurately reporting the coal seam depth in the permit application.

The cease operations order requires the company to review the reported coal seam and casing depths for all drilled and proposed wells; take all steps necessary to comply with West Virginia Code requirements for a person trained in blowout prevention to be present at all times during drilling rig operation; and demonstrate knowledge and an understanding of the events that led up to and the cause of the June 7 incident.

WVDEP said it will review all of AB Resources’ 19 active permits for operations in the state. The department’s Office of Oil and Gas has also begun a comprehensive review of its program, looking at staffing levels, funding, agency policies and regulatory structure, WVDEP said.

A total of more than 500 Marcellus Shale-targeted wells have been drilled in West Virginia, according to WVDEP.

Chief Oil & Gas, which is a participant in the well and is responsible for drilling and completing the well, said Tuesday that well control specialists hoped to have the well capped in about three days (see Daily GPI, June 9).

Chief Oil & Gas has 15 gas wells in West Virginia and has experienced no major incidents in 10 years of drilling in the Marcellus, a spokesman said.

The WVDEP order follows the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) decision to suspend all EOG Resources natural gas well drilling activities in that state following a June 3 blowout at an EOG well. The DEP has also ordered a contractor that had provided post-hydrofracturing services at the well in Clearfield County, PA, to suspend all post-hydraulic fracturing activities on Marcellus Shale wells in the state (see related story).

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