Incidents involving unreported spills and blowouts at natural gas wells are not uncommon in West Virginia. Spills can be drill waste or mud, or can be flowback after fracturing a well. Flowback contains the chemicals used to fracture the well, liquids from the producing formation (brine and/or crude petroleum), and materials from the formation. In the case of Marcellus shale wells in West Virginia flowback (and drill waste) can include high levels of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (uranium, radium 226, and radium 228), volatile organic hydrocarbons such as benzene and toluene, heavy metals such as arsenic and lead, and a host of other toxic chemicals and compounds.
The video illustrates four incidents. The 2011 unreported incident in Doddridge county was drill waste that "bounced" out of the pit according to an oil and gas inspector. This was at a multi-well horizontal Marcellus site.
The 2008 Tucker county unreported incident was at a non-shale well site in the Monongahela National Forest in the Fernow Experimental Forest. While drilling out a fracture plug (put in to hold the fracture fluids in the well) the operator lost control of the well and flowback sprayed into the surrounding woods, killing vegetation. Later, when the operator landsprayed the liquid drill waste, which included fracture flowback, vegetation including large trees was killed. The landspraying event has been well documented by a Forest Service report, a paper, and a report documenting the refracturing of the well a year later.
The 2008 Kanawha county unreported incident described by Paul Phillips occurred at a well (47-039-06155) on his property near his house. Rather than try to contain the Marcellus flowback in a tank or direct it into a pit, the operator deliberately let it spray across the well pad toward the pit and into the woods. Dead trees provide evidence of the flowback entering the forest and going down a hillside to a stream. This same well has poisoned the Phillips' domestic water supply and they have to purchase bottled water.
The unreported 2009 spill into Buckeye Creek in Doddridge county has been well documented. We have a section on our website about the spill and the Office of Oil and Gas released a report. Even though the operator did not notify the Office that there was a spill, they were not found in violation for that. The Office itself fumbled the ball when it didn't notify the town of West Union about the spill. Their municipal water supply intake is just a few miles below the spill. The mayor learned about the spill from a newspaper report.
The state doesn't have a standard procedure for dealing with these spills or events. The Office's response to the Buckeye Creek spill has numerous shortcomings. They didn't require MSDS information for the products used to fracture the well, they didn't analyze the actual spill material for metals, radioactive materials, or harmful hydrocarbons, and they didn't analyze the sediment in the Creek; instead they only analyzed the water in the Creek. The inspector's report (an appendix to the Office of Oil and Gas' report) noted the origin of the spill but there is no written documentation of how the spill occurred or what the inspector found. It's unknown when the spill into Buckeye Creek actually happened.
Because citizens in West Virginia are tired of getting used to it, some are starting local watershed organizations to help watch over the state's precious resources.
An Underground Injection Control Class 2 Well in Putnam County, WV
Three videos about issues at a UIC Class 2 well in Fayette county
Two Problem Wells
You Get Used To It
They Don't Do It That Way Any More: Fracturing with Explosives
Drilling Causing Problems in Wetzel County, West Virginia
Gas Well Study Cooking Class: Making Fracking Gel
Natural Gas: Blunders and Numbers
Bad Well Bad Well Bad Well
Natural Gas: Trashing the Surface Owner
Three Natural Gas Wells
Gas Well Study is the examination of natural gas wells in West Virginia.
Underground Injection Control Class 2 Wells
These wells are used either for the disposal of oil and gas liquid waste or for the enhanced recovery of oil or natural gas.
Gas Well Study Site Visits
Annual reports, environmental assessments, and individual well information.
Select videos from the Gas Well Study YouTube channel.
What Happened at Fernow
An investigation into what caused the vegetation death in the land application area after landspraying hydraulic fracture flowback waste.
The Spill at Buckeye Creek
An investigation into a spill from a Marcellus well site into Buckeye Creek in Doddridge county.