Other Voices at Shale Insight: Utica, Pipelines, Public Health

EPA Chief Andrew Wheeler wasn’t the only speaker at yesterday’s Shale Insight event in Pittsburgh (see EPA Head Andrew Wheeler Addresses Shale Insight re “New EPA”). There were a number of other sessions addressing issues from the technical to the philosophical. A speaker from XTO Energy said the Utica Shale is only just getting started and the potential of the Utica “enormous.” A panel spoke to the critical nature of pipelines and addressed the issue of how we can better “tell our story” to the public with respect to pipelines. And another panel discussed whether and how natural gas development is affecting public health. Here’s a few select reports.
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PA DEP Orders CNX, XTO & Diversified to Plug 1,058 Abandoned Wells

Yesterday the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued administrative orders requiring three oil and gas companies–Alliance Petroleum Corporation (a subsidiary of Diversified Gas & Oil), XTO Energy, and CNX Resources–to plug 1,058 abandoned oil and gas wells across Pennsylvania. Alliance has 638 wells, CNX has 327, and XTO has 93. In a quick scan of the list of wells to be plugged, we didn’t spot a single shale well. All 1,058 wells are conventional/vertical wells. So why is this news for MDN? Because all three drillers (but in particular CNX and XTO) drill shale wells, and plugging old conventional wells takes time and money–time and money that could be spent on drilling shale wells. It takes anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 to plug an abandoned conventional oil/gas well. Most of the wells are located in the southwestern part of the state. CNX responded that in reviewing the list, some 190 of the wells in their list (out of 327) were part of a recent asset sale. Here’s the details on where, and how long these companies have, to plug old/abandoned oil and gas wells…
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XTO Plan to Drill Wells at Former Golf Course Delayed by Zoning Bd

In February MDN told you that XTO Energy, the shale drilling arm of Exxon Mobil, has plans to begin drilling five new shale wells in Armstrong County, PA on a former golf course (see XTO Plans 5 Shale Wells at Former Golf Course in Armstrong County). XTO presented a plan in February to build a drill pad on what used to the seventh green at the former Phoenix at Buffalo Valley Golf Course in Freeport, PA. The plan calls for drilling 4 Marcellus wells and 1 Utica well on the pad. Some 20 residents showed up for the February meeting. Not a single one spoke out against the plan. Nor did any of the Freeport officials. Last night the Freeport Zoning Board met, ostensibly to vote on XTO’s plan. However, the officials delayed the vote, claiming “there was just too much information to digest.” No date is yet set for another meeting to consider XTO’s “too much information” proposal…
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XTO Selling 9,400 OH Utica Acres in Monroe & Washington Counties

XTO Energy, the shale drilling arm of Exxon Mobil, wants to sell ~9,400 Ohio Utica Shale acres in Monroe and Washington counties. Have no fear, XTO isn’t going anywhere. According to XTO’s website, the company currently owns 82,000 acres of Utica Shale leases in Belmont and Monroe counties. The tiny 9,400-acre sale appears to us to be selling off acreage in areas that don’t fit with XTO’s future drilling plans. XTO maintains a regional office in Belmont County. According to the sale announcement appearing on Oil & Gas Asset Clearinghouse, there are potentially 40 drilling locations on the 9,400 acres. The acreage has dry gas potential. The sale is not exactly an auction, but it is timed and uses bids. XTO is accepting sealed bids on the property through May 17. Here’s a copy of the listing, along with a flyer…
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New Video of Burning XTO Well in Belmont County; EPA’s Wild Claim

XTO well in Belmont County, OH

As we reported on Tuesday, it has now been over a month since a Utica Shale well being drilled by XTO Energy Belmont County, OH exploded and caught fire (see XTO Well Explosion in Ohio Still Under Investigation Month Later). A variety state and federal agencies are investigating to see what went wrong. Still no guesses or theories. However, lack of hard data isn’t stopping the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from making a wild, off-the-cuff claim that the well leaked 100 million cubic feet of methane into the atmosphere per day until it was capped (see Exploded XTO Well in Belmont County Finally Capped After 20 Days). What does the EPA base that claim on? Nothing. It’s a guess. EPA officials were at the scene of the exploded well shortly after it exploded–but they never took any measurements. Why measure when you can guess? XTO is pushing back against the EPA’s wild guess. Below we have more on the EPA’s guesswork, and a just-released video of the burning well, taken from the air on the day the well exploded…
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XTO Well Explosion in Ohio Still Under Investigation Month Later

On Feb. 15, XTO Energy was drilling a Utica Shale well on the Schnegg well pad near Captina Creek (York Township, Belmont County, OH) when they “lost control” of the well and it exploded and caught fire (see XTO Energy Utica Well Explosion in Belmont County – 100 Evacuated). Fortunately no one was injured. It took XTO 20 days to get the well capped so it would stop venting methane into the atmosphere (see Exploded XTO Well in Belmont County Finally Capped After 20 Days). It’s now 35 days from the initial explosion and XTO and state officials investigating the incident still don’t know why it happened. An XTO spokesperson updated Belmont Count commissioners last week on the aftermath of the explosion and how XTO is working hard to ensure area residents are well taken care of. Here’s the latest on the aftermath, and the ongoing investigation…
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Exploded XTO Well in Belmont County Finally Capped After 20 Days

On Feb. 15, XTO Energy was drilling a Utica Shale well on the Schnegg well pad near Captina Creek (York Township, Belmont County, OH) when they “lost control” of the well and it exploded and caught fire (see XTO Energy Utica Well Explosion in Belmont County – 100 Evacuated). Fortunately no one was injured. Some of the ~100 people from the nearby 30 homes who were evacuated finally felt safe enough to return home–some 10 days later (see Neighbors of Exploded XTO Well in Belmont, OH Finally Return Home). However, not all of them returned home. Some did not want to return until the well is capped. We’re happy to report the well is finally, after 20 days, now capped. In order to cap it, workers first had to flare the well (burn off excess gas)–which happened Tuesday. XTO’s #1 priority now that the well is capped is to get those displaced back into their homes…
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XTO Well Blowout in Belmont County, OH Still Leaking 2 Wks Later

Two weeks after an XTO Energy well in Belmont County, Ohio exploded (not hurting anyone, blessedly), the neighbors have moved back–all but four homes closest to the pad. However, the well remains uncapped. Although it’s an unfortunate event that has caused a major upset for around 100 people, one Belmont County commissioner waxed philosophical by saying, “accidents happen.” What’s the latest on this accident and the cleanup effort by XTO?…
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XTO Exploded Belmont Well Still Not Capped, Neighbors Stay Away

Last Thursday XTO Energy was drilling a Utica Shale well on the Schnegg well pad near Captina Creek (York Township, Belmont County, OH) when they “lost control” of the well and it exploded and caught fire (see XTO Energy Utica Well Explosion in Belmont County – 100 Evacuated). As we reported yesterday, most evacuees were allowed to return home, with just a few still not able to access their homes (see Most Evacuees Return Home After XTO Well Explosion in Ohio). However, we’ve since that time, we’ve learned that although evacuees were allowed to return home (and some did, to check on things/grab items), none of them stayed overnight in their own homes. Why? The well is still not capped. And as long as it’s not capped and continues to “spew” methane into the air, residents don’t feel safe. Can’t say that we blame them. We wouldn’t want to be in the vicinity either. The latest news is this: Power was restored to the area yesterday, but since the power has been out since last Thursday, you can imagine the condition of refrigerators and freezers in those homes where power was off. XTO has pledged to replace all fridges and freezers, and compensate residents for the cost of food lost, from having the power turned off. There’s still no estimate on when the well will be capped (a damaged crane has to be removed first)…
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Most Evacuees Return Home After XTO Well Explosion in Ohio

As we reported yesterday, last Thursday XTO Energy was drilling a fourth Utica Shale well on the Schnegg well pad near Captina Creek (York Township, Belmont County, OH) when XTO “lost control” of the well and it exploded and caught fire (see XTO Energy Utica Well Explosion in Belmont County – 100 Evacuated). We have an update. Most of the evacuees have now returned to their homes (a few still have not). Also, the well is still not capped, meaning “unknown quantities” of methane are leaking into the air. Which, judging by most press accounts, is a greenhouse gas environmental catastrophe. Actually, it’s nothing of the sort. The amount of gas a single well vents into the atmosphere until it’s capped doesn’t even move the needle on the faux global warming scale. Frankly, it’s laughable. No, we’re not laughing at this accident/disaster. Far from it. We thank God nobody was hurt. It should not have happened. And yes, the well needs to be capped–quickly–which XTO and the company hired to do it (Cudd Energy Services) are working hard to do. We’re just providing balance to the “methane leaking from this uncapped well is the end of the world” narrative so prevalent–even in local news outlets. Here’s the latest update on what’s happening at the Schnegg well pad…
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XTO Energy Utica Well Explosion in Belmont County – 100 Evacuated

Last Thursday XTO Energy was drilling a fourth Utica Shale well on the Schnegg well pad near Captina Creek (York Township, Belmont County, OH) when XTO “lost control” of the well and it exploded and caught fire. There were 24 people working at the well pad at the time. Fortunately, none of them were injured. Following the explosion and fire, 36 nearby homes and farms (around 100 people) were evacuated. So far the evacuees have not been allowed to return, although that may change today. XTO is putting them up at nearby hotels in St. Clairsville, Moundsville and Wheeling. Crews have worked to try and keep the brine gushing from the well from reaching Captina Creek. XTO hired Wild Well Control to put out the fire (which happened quickly). XTO has also hired Cudd Energy Services to cap the well. Three wells on the pad that were producing have been shut down for the time being. Below is the chronology of the explosion and aftermath, as it happened. This story is still unfolding, now five days later…
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XTO Plans 5 Shale Wells at Former Golf Course in Armstrong County

You don’t hear much about XTO Energy drilling in the Marcellus these days. That’s not to say they aren’t busy. They certainly are/have been. In PA’s Butler County, XTO had spud (begun to drill or completed drilling) some 145 shale wells as of 2016. In neighboring Armstrong County, XTO had spud/drilled 4 shale wells as of 2016. The number in Armstrong will more than double if XTO wins approval for a series of wells they plan to drill on a single well pad. Last night XTO presented a plan to build a drill pad on what used to the seventh green at the former Phoenix at Buffalo Valley Golf Course in Freeport, PA. The plan calls for drilling 4 Marcellus wells and 1 Utica well on the pad. Some 20 residents showed up for the meeting. Not a single one spoke out against the plan. Nor did any of the Freeport officials. Here’s the details on XTO’s plans to sink a hole (in one!) on the seventh green in Armstrong County…
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PA Class Action Royalty Lawsuit Against XTO Settles for $11M

A journey which began for Pennsylvania landowners in Butler County, PA in July 2015 is nearing an end. Two Butler County, PA landowners with a combined 245.7 acres of land leased to XTO Energy sued XTO in 2015 claiming that XTO is breaking the lease agreement by paying royalties below 1/8 of what XTO receives in revenue for the gas (see PA Landowners Sue XTO Energy for Shorting Them on Royalties). The case, known as Marburger et al V. XTO Energy Inc., asserted the lease signed with landowners did not include language that would allow XTO to deduct post-production charges (that they had been deducting). The two landowning families that launched the lawsuit, the Marburgers and the Thieles, sought to turn the lawsuit into a class action, involving potentially hundreds or thousands of others. It didn’t take long for XTO to oppose the lawsuit and its certification as a class action (see XTO Files Motion to Dismiss Royalty Lawsuit in Butler County, PA). Since that time we’ve not heard much of anything about the lawsuit. And then out the blue comes word that via arbitration, XTO has agreed to settle the lawsuit. The settlement includes turning it into a class action, and paying out a total of $11,010,000. As part of the settlement, XTO admits to nothing. That is, they do not concede the plantiffs have a valid case against them. It’s simply cheaper to settle it and move on rather than to keep fighting. Below we have the relevant court documents with the details of the settlement…
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Top 10 Drillers in SWPA, by Number of Permits Issued

Every now and again it’s fun to take a look at a “Top 10” list. Here’s one for you. How about a Top 10 List for drillers in southwestern PA, in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Clarion, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Washington, and Westmoreland counties. This Top 10 list ranks drillers by how many shale well permits they’ve been granted. The list is extracted from a Top 40 list prepared by the (must read) Pittsburgh Business Times. Can you guess which 10 drillers are in the Top 10? How about the Top 1? It may come as no surprise that Range Resources, the very first company to drill a Marcellus Shale well (in 2004), has received the most permits to drill in SWPA. Here’s the full Top 10 list, with some interesting extra details…
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PA AG Criminal Lawsuit Against XTO Energy Dismissed After 4 Yrs

Four years after then-Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane decided to turn an accident into a criminal prosecution against XTO Energy, the final chapter has been written. Anti-drilling Kane attempted to criminalize the accidental spill of a small amount of recycled wastewater by XTO that happened years before she took office (see PA AG Abuses Her Authority, Files Criminal Charges Against XTO). There was an accidental spill of ~50,000 gallons of frack wastewater at an XTO drill site in 2010 in Lycoming County, PA. XTO remediated the site, digging up affected soil, and paid out a $100,000 settlement in 2013. By the time Kane took office, the matter had been over and done for over two years. But Kane wanted/needed a quick way to make a splash with her hardcore left fringe supporters (payback time for money and volunteers), so she re-opened the case and fantastically filed criminal charges saying XTO showed a pattern of brazen disregard for safety, blah blah blah. In 2013, XTO filed to dismiss the Kane lawsuit (see XTO Energy Files to Have AG Kane’s Lawsuit Dismissed). The federal EPA also got into the act and last year XTO settled a violation of the Clean Streams Law and Solid Waste Management Act. Pricetag? Another $300,000. Now that the company has paid out the nose ($400,000 total), U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew Brann yesterday approved a motion filed by the U.S. attorney’s office to end the case. Finally. After four years…
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