Leak at Pennsylvania gas storage well spewing methane

Leak at Pennsylvania gas storage well spewing methane thumbnail

A vent at an underground natural-gas storage well in Western Pennsylvania has been leaking massive amounts of planet warming methane into Western Pennsylvania for more than 11days. Attempts to plug the leakage have so far failed.

Owner Equitrans Midstream stated that the Rager Mountain storage facility, which is located in a rural area 1.5 hours east from Pittsburgh, is releasing approximately 100 millions cubic feet of natural gas each day. These initial estimates are based on preliminary estimates.

If accurate, this would equal the greenhouse gas emissions from burning 1 ,080 coal-fired rail car.

Pennsylvania environmental regulators issued the company notice of five potential violations of state law. As a precaution, the Federal Aviation Administration has restricted aircraft from within a 1-mile radius of the leaking well.

A written statement from Equitrans spokeswoman Natalie Cox Friday stated that there are “no immediate public safety concerns” as the company is working with a specialty service company to plug the leak. The leak was first reported Nov. 6.

The Rager facility can be found in Jackson Township. It is located in the Marcellus Shale formation, which has seen a surge in gas production since hydraulic fracturing was introduced more than a decade back. Residents as far away as four miles from the leak said that they could hear the roaring of pressurized gas escaping the well and smell the fumes.

Tracey, who homeschools her children three miles away, said that the air smells of sulfur and is so loud she can’t sleep.

“When you’re laying in bed at night, it sounds like a jet plane taking off,” said the 39-year-old mother. It’s unbelievable, the constant noise it makes. Everyone keeps telling us that we are safe. But it doesn’t feel safe if you can hear it and smell it.”

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is colorless and odorless. To give the gas a “rotten egg” smell, producers add mercaptan when it is being processed for transport and sale. This helps people to be aware of potential leaks.

Methane has a greater earth-warming effect than carbon dioxide from power plants and car tailpipes. Oil and gas companies are the top industrial emitters of methane, which, once released into the atmosphere, will be disrupting the climate for decades, contributing to more heat waves, hurricanes, wildfires and floods.

The new leak is a result of new rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (Nov. 11) to reduce methane and other harmful omissions from oil and gas operations.

The Rager facility has 10 storage wells with a total storage capacity of 9 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Equitrans announced that the leak was stopped by workers flooding the leaking well. However, the hissing gas from the venting gas returned Friday morning.

Cox warned that the estimate of 100 millions cubic feet of natural gas per day is preliminary. The company will not be able to provide an accurate account until an inventory verification study has been completed.

The initial estimate would place the Rager leak at a smaller level but comparable to the daily gas emissions from the worst uncontrolled gas leakages in American history, a 2018 explosion at an Ohio gas well owned subsidiary of ExxonMobil, and the 2015 catastrophe at the Aliso Canyon storage unit in California. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued citations against the company. They cited it for failing to maintain and operate the gas facility properly, creating a nuisance and producing safety hazards. Also, the company was cited for not allowing state inspectors unrestricted access to the site. “

Lauren Camarda spokeswoman for state environmental agency. She said that state emergency response teams arrived at the site Nov. 7, but were initially denied entry. Cox stated that Equitrans’ contractors were still working to create a safety barrier to prevent them from introducing an ignition source that could ignite highly flammable methane into the air.

The gas comes from a vent that is designed to relieve the pressures in the well and prevent a blastout. Cox stated that the company is currently removing gas from four storage tanks to lower the pressure in the field. The weekend was expected to see continued efforts to plug the leak, including concrete attempts to plug it.

Nearby residents stated that a resolution cannot be found soon enough.

Edana, who owns a wedding venue located 3.6 miles from the well, said that the smell was making it difficult to eat and had a negative impact on her business.

” It was evident at the last wedding that we had,” she said. “And it smelled. But everyone was okay with it. We said we’re really sorry.”

——–

Biesecker reported from Washington and Rubinkam from northeastern Pennsylvania.

Read More