Chesapeake Energy experienced a blowout at a well being drilled near Canton in Bradford County, PA on Tuesday at 11:45 pm. A blowout occurs when the pressure systems fail and results (in this case) in drilling fracking fluids escaping in an uncontrolled manner. For a time the fluids from the Canton well spread over farm land and into a small stream that empties into the Towanda Creek.
Initially seven families were evacuated from the immediate area. Six of the families have now returned to their homes, but one family will need to stay relocated until the well is 100 percent under control. Crews have significantly decreased the amount of fracking fluid coming from the bore hole, but they have not yet fully stopped it.
There were no injuries or explosions from the blowout, there was no geyser, and so far no fish kills have been reported in the vicinity.
By early Thursday, Chesapeake crews had built a containment system to divert the tainted water away from the stream, and Chesapeake spokesman Brian Grove said area waterways have shown “minimal impact, if any.”
He said the exact cause of Tuesday night’s breach is unknown, but that it’s located in the wellhead connection.(1)
As of Thursday the fracking fluids are no longer reaching the stream, but the fluids have had an impact on an area farmer:
Officials advised a neighboring farmer to prevent his cows from drinking surface water, according to DEP spokeswoman Katy Gresh.
She said reports from the scene indicate that fracking water was gushing from the wellhead, pooling on the pad, then escaping containment.
“Discharge of fluids to the unnamed tributary appears to be stopped,” she said.(2)
Since the cause of the blowout is still unknown, Chesapeake has temporarily suspended all drilling in PA that involves hydraulic fracturing—until they can determine why this accident happened.
(1) Elmira Star-Gazette (Apr 21, 2011) – Chesapeake Energy suspends fracking in Pa.
(2) The Daily Item/AP (Apr 20, 2011) – Drilling fluid gushes from natural gas well in Bradford County