XTO Methane Leak Continues

Photo by Casey Junkins Access to Cats Run Road from Ohio 148 near Powhatan Point remains restricted Tuesday as contractors working for XTO Energy continue working to close a shale natural gas well that began leaking methane almost a week ago.

XTO Energy spokeswoman Karen Matusic said officials are still unsure what caused the Schnegg well near Captina Creek to explode nearly one week ago.

With several residents still displaced, unknown quantities of methane gas continue to leak into the air. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that methane “absorbs much more energy than (carbon dioxide).”

Nevertheless, Matusic said officials are working as quickly as they can to normalize life for Powhatan Point and the nearby community of Steinersville. Many of those originally evacuated within the 1-mile radius of the well have been allowed to return home, while others are receiving compensation and hotel rooms.

“We send our heartfelt apologies to the community. We will make them whole and make sure they are safe,” Matusic said.

“If they spend money on a meal, they can get it back. Any out-of-pocket expense they have incurred from this can be claimed,” she said.

XTO is a subsidiary of global oil giant Exxon Mobil. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the driller produced natural gas from at least 40 separate wells in Belmont County last year. The company was in the process of finishing a fourth well on the Schnegg pad when the blast occurred.

Matusic said contractors spent much of Monday and Tuesday clearing a safe path to the pad and removing debris from the well site. Officials with XTO and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency continue monitoring air quality to ensure it is safe for residents to return home.

Matusic said flooding along Captina Creek and Cats Run during the weekend hampered some of the company’s efforts, in addition to causing power outages.

“Crews are actively working to restore power to residences that lost power as a result of weekend flooding. Five homes remain in the evacuation zone,” she said.

Residents and businesses hope to eventually get life back to normal. A nearby resident who declined to give her name said at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, it sounded as if “there was a jet engine” in her living room.” This was shortly after the report of the well blast.

In December 2014, residents of about 30 homes near Sardis were displaced for 10 days when the wellhead blew at a Magnum Hunter Resources operation. At that time, an unknown amount of unburned methane gushed into the atmosphere in a geyser-like manner.