After Almost A Week, XTO Methane Leak Continues

POWHATAN POINT — XTO Energy spokeswoman Karen Matusic said the high pressure associated with eastern Ohio Utica Shale wells may have contributed to the explosion at the Schnegg pad near Captina Creek on Thursday.

Nearly a week after the well blew, several residents remain displaced, while unknown quantities of the greenhouse gas leak into the air. President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency states that methane “absorbs much more energy than CO2.”

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, asking those who need help to call 1-855-351-6573.

“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, a firm which reported $8.4 billion worth of earnings from Oct. 1-Dec. 31. 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 localized 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 my 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.