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Early on Tuesday morning, a Chevron-owned natural gas well in Greene County, Pa., burst into flames – and more than 72 hours later, it’s still burning. One contractor for Chevron is missing and presumed dead, and another was injured in the explosion.
Chevron has flown in experts from Houston’s Wild Well Control to put out the fire, and crews spent yesterday removing overheated pieces of metal that kept reigniting. Today, they await heavy-duty water tanks to extinguish the blaze, which could be delayed by the winter storms afflicting the region. Last year, five surface well blowouts with fires were “wild” enough to require the expertise of Wild Well Control.
An energy industry employee who had been in the area at the time of the explosion told Pittsburgh’s WTAE that he heard “there was a large propane truck that was parked near the actual well, which would have been a no-no.” No-no, indeed, sir! However, the cause of the explosion remains unknown.
The well lies on the Marcellus Shale, which is not just the only geological formation we know of that could plausibly share a name with a human, but also the No. 1 source of natural gas in the United States. Another gas well fire on the shale in Indiana Township, Pa., killed two people in July 2010. Yet another, also in the same region, caused three more deaths in February 2011.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) has been a consistent advocate for fracking in the state. He’s refused to levy significant taxes on gas companies and is pushing for the reversal of both a state Supreme Court ruling and former Gov. Ed Rendell’s (D) executive order that protect many regions of the state, including parks, from drilling. In spite of the supersized natural gas bonfire in his backyard, Corbett continues to laud the safety of the fracking industry.