XTO Looks to Stop Methane Leak at Well Pad in Powhatan Point

100 residents wait to return home

Photo by Scott McCloskey Emergency officials set up a command post along Ohio 148 next to the Clair Mar Golf Course in Powhatan Point Thursday while responding to a gas leak at XTO Energy’s Schnegg well pad.

Flames did not seem to shoot from the XTO Energy Schnegg well near Captina Creek on Friday as they had after the Thursday explosion, but about 100 nearby residents remained displaced as methane continued leaking into the atmosphere.

“Right now, it seems the well is still releasing gas into the air that is not burning,” Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesman Steve Irwin said. “That is mostly methane.”

After the early Thursday blast rocked the area in southern Belmont County, emergency responders and XTO officials, along with regulators from both the ODNR and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, remained at the site on Friday. XTO spokeswoman Karen Matusic said the mandatory evacuation for those within a 1-mile radius remained in effect as of Friday evening, but said some residents had been allowed to return home to feed livestock animals.

“Some of the farmers have been escorted to their acreage to feed their livestock,” she said.

“They have gone back in under supervision with law enforcement and someone with a gas monitor and paramedics,” Irwin said of the residents.

Matusic and Irwin said it is still too early to say when residents will be allowed to return to their homes. 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.

Methane is the most common component of Marcellus and Utica shale gas streams, while most commercially marketed “natural gas” is methane. It is a potent greenhouse gas, with the capacity to trap more heat than carbon dioxide.

“We are looking at drone footage. We had an infrared drone up above the scene of the incident to get a better idea of what’s happening there, to determine when it will be safe for our well control team that we’ve flown in from Texas and Oklahoma to go in there and try to stop that well,” Matusic said.

Matusic said contractors worked Friday to keep pollution from flowing into Captina Creek, as well as Cats Run.

We haven’t detected a sheen. Often with an oil spill or a spill, you’re looking for a sheen on the water,” she said.

XTO is a subsidiary of global oil giant Exxon Mobil. The firm produced natural gas from at least 40 separate wells in Belmont County last year. The company was in the process of fracking a fourth well on the Schnegg pad when the blast occurred.

Matusic said anyone who is displaced can call 1-855-351-6573 for assistance. She said XTO will pay for hotel rooms for those who faced evacuation, along with other claims.

“We want to ensure they don’t have to pay anything out of pocket, and we want to make them as comfortable as possible, even though they have to be out of their homes,” Matusic said.

According to Matusic and Powhatan fire fighters, all of those evacuated have been housed at area hotels, with three hotels in St. Clairsville, a hotel in Moundsville and a hotel in Wheeling.

“I think we had 36 homes evacuated, but some of them are staying with family. Anyone who needed a room, we provided,” she said. “It hasn’t increased that I’m aware of…I would say we’ve probably got 20 to 25 to 30 hotel rooms.”

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