southeast ohio Cleanup continues for drilling leak

Associated Press


A Colorado-based energy company was cleaning up hundreds of gallons of oily fluid that leaked into a nearby creek while it was drilling an oil and gas well in southeast Ohio.

An oil-based lubricant known as “mud” spewed from a well head Sunday during drilling for a hydraulic-fracturing well near Beverly, Ohio, just west of Marietta. About 1,600 gallons leaked from the drill site into a creek that is a tributary of the Muskingum River, said Heather Lauer, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The spill thus far has been confined to that creek, Lauer said. The agency is overseeing the cleanup work, which is being performed by a contractor for Denver-based PDC Energy Inc., the site’s owner.

Michael Edwards, of PDC Energy, said Thursday that workers noticed high pressure at the drill site but could not contain the subsequent leak because of an equipment failure at the well head. PDC Energy has 15 active wells in Ohio and permits for 18 more. There are two other prospective wells on the same pad where Sunday’s leak occurred.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Department and fire departments were called soon after the leak occurred, Edwards said. Several residents accepted the company’s offer to move away from the well site temporarily, he said.

Contractors were using containment dams to prevent the drilling liquid from drifting farther. He said the company is working with state and federal officials on the cleanup.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources oversees gas- and oil-drilling permits in the state and will investigate the accident. Bethany McCorkle, a department spokeswoman, said the company had drilled vertically about 8,600 feet and had turned the drill horizontally about 1,200 feet when the drilling liquid gushed to the surface.

PDC Energy has not had any other reported spills in Ohio. It did have a spill of fracking water at an oil and gas well near Fort Collins, Colo., in February 2013.

Fracking fluids contain a number of toxic chemicals. Edwards said the company had not yet begun fracking at the well where Sunday’s leak occurred.

“The well has been secured and we’re doing repairs as we speak,” Edwards said. “At some point, we expect to complete those wells with hydraulic fracturing.”

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