Clean up started after fracking operation effects orphan well by Bob Niedbala, July 18, 2014, Observer Reporter
A company hydro fracking a conventional oil well in Jackson Township Monday blew out the plug on a nearby unknown “wildcat,” or orphan well, forcing materials in the orphan well to the surface and requiring a cleanup of an unnamed tributary of Long Run.
Penneco Oil Co. was fracking the horizontal portion of the well off Long Run Road when the pressure “communicated with an unknown wildcat well,” said John Poister, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“The force of the water into the well blew out the plug in the wildcat well,” he said. The wildcat well is about 1,100 feet away from the Penneco well and is in Aleppo Township, he said.
Water and other materials from the wildcat well entered an unnamed tributary of Long Run, he said. The DEP was notified of the incident by the company. DEP personnel went to the site and saw signs of “cloudy water” in about a half mile of the stream but no signs of a fish kill, he said.
Penneco is now conducting cleanup activities at the site, Poister said. DEP personnel have been at the property and are investigating the incident, though it’s still too early in the investigation to make any determinations, he said.
Poister said the wildcat well was drilled years ago and was not permitted or included on any maps. “Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania, given its vast history with the oil and gas business, there are probably a number of these wells around,” he said.
Ben Wallace, Penneco chief operations officer, said the company had no knowledge of the orphan well. The company was fracking its well when pressure “communicated” with the nearby orphan well, which was at the same depth, he said.
The orphan well had been plugged with wood, gravel, sand and dirt and those materials were forced to the surface, he said. The materials, mixed with water in the old well, had the consistency of “sludge,” Wallace said.
The company halted operations at its well, notified DEP and immediately implemented its cleanup plan, using absorbent materials to clean up fluid around the orphan well and booms in the stream to capture any contamination before it spread, he said. The stream is 20 to 30 feet away from the orphan well.
Penneco also brought in a vacuum truck to clean up materials that entered the stream, Wallace said. An environmental consultant was engaged to determine the extent of contamination in the stream and soil and develop a thorough cleanup plan, he said.
Wallace said it had not yet been determined whether any fracking fluid reached the surface or whether what came out was only the materials and water in the orphan well. The company will complete the cleanup and plug the abandoned well in an appropriate manner, he said. [Emphasis added]