By CASEY JUNKINS
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register
CAMERON, W.Va. — EQT Corp. officials will work to determine the cause of a Wednesday blaze at the Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling pad near the Williams Energy Fort Beeler plant, just north of Cameron.
Marshall County Emergency Management Director Tom Hart called the fire the first “significant” accident officials have seen with the drilling and fracking industry for some time. This is a change from the years of 2010-2013, during which Marshall County responders dealt with a well fire that burned for several days after a blast, along with leaks and a “dust cloud” that caused residents to evacuate, in addition to a fire at a large processing plant.
“It’s never going to be an incident-free industry, but the companies are working with us to improve the situation,” Hart said. “This wasn’t anything like what we’ve experienced before. Everyone was very fortunate.”
Reports indicate the fire began around 11 a.m. Wednesday at Pittsburgh-based EQT’s “Grove Pad.” Hart said contractors working for EQT soon responded to the scene to “shut in” the well, a procedure which stops the mixture of methane, propane, butane, ethane and other forms of natural gas from exiting the ground. He said once officials stopped the stream, the fire — with flames reaching heights up to 6 feet — ended. Firefighters from several local volunteer departments, including Cameron, Limestone and Fork Ridge, then entered the pad to spray water on the equipment that had been burning.
“We didn’t have to evacuate any residents,” Hart said. “Williams did evacuate the Fort Beeler plant as a precautionary measure.”
Lee Dawson, maintenance supervisor at the Williams plant, said the facility evacuated in an “abundance of caution.”
West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection records list the Grove site under the ownership of Trans Energy. However, EQT acquired Trans Energy late last year.
“The only well on the pad has been in production since 2011,” EQT spokeswoman Linda Robertson said. “This is not considered a well fire, as the fire began in the gas production unit: a contained unit that sits quite a bit away from the well head.”
When the natural gas stream exits a well, drillers often perform certain processing or separation activities onsite.
For instance, some companies remove the material known as condensate at the well site.
The nearby Fort Beeler plant is one of three large Williams natural gas processing facilities in Marshall County, with the Oak Grove plant and the Moundsville fractionator being the others.
“The pad has been secured and the well has been shut in — the gas inlet and outlet have been closed — as a precaution,” Robertson said. “The cause is under investigation, and the well will remain shut in, pending the investigation.”
West Virginia DEP spokesman Jake Glance provided a report his agency prepared on the situation. The report lists the material involved as “hazardous or toxic,” but states there is no evidence of a stream impact or a fish kill.
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