Probe Accident At Gas Well Pad

It would be exceedingly foolish for an energy company to allow workplace shortcuts that increased the chance of an accident such as that last week at a gas drilling pad west of Powhatan Point.

Precisely what happened is not known yet. What has been released is that an explosion occurred at the well pad, a natural-gas fueled fire started. It was extinguished, but residents of about 30 homes in the area of the well were evacuated because gas continued to flow out of the wrecked well.

That will cost XTO Energy a substantial sum of money in lost production, expenses to put out the fire and rebuilding the facility. Fortunately, none of the well pad workers were hurt.

What caused the accident? That needs to be determined. Obviously, safety procedures were not adequate to prevent a serious explosion and fire, so something went wrong.

Beyond that, were safe operating methods followed at the well? Or did someone take a shortcut that had drastic consequences?

This is not the first major accident involving the natural gas industry in our area. There have been several, some at well sites and others when pipelines burst.

No industry can be made entirely accident-free. That is a fact of life.

But if human error — or intentional decisions not to follow the rules — were to blame in the accident last week, someone should be held accountable. State and federal officials should investigate the situation thoroughly to determine precisely what went wrong.