Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Dep: Well Fire Will Be Contained

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Dep: Well Fire Will Be Contained

Article excerpt

The state's secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection said late Wednesday that the massive natural gas well fire that exploded into flames Tuesday, leaving one person feared dead, could be brought under control in a day or two.

After meeting with well owner Chevron and well fire experts Chevron had flown in from Houston, DEP Secretary Christopher Abruzzo said, "from what we're seeing, I'm thinking the next day or two this will be contained and the well will be capped."

If so, that might give search crews their first chance to search for a contractor who went missing and is feared dead after the fire began just before 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Mr. Abruzzo said some tried to find the missing man on the well site Wednesday. "But they were only able to get so close and then they had to stop searching," he said.

That was proof again that the blaze, which occasionally flared out Wednesday, only to reignite again, still created "a very dangerous situation on the well pad," DEP spokesman John Poister said.

The uncontrolled blowout of natural gas from one of three wells on the site had well fire experts from Chevron and Wild Well Control huddled all day with state officials trying to figure out how to put it out -- and cause no more harm in the process.

"Our biggest concern is the environmental impact of what they're going to do," Mr. Poister said. "This is not your standard well fire. It's bigger.

"We want to know what they are going to use to put out that fire and how they're going to contain it and prevent it from spreading and possibly getting into a stream."

While Wild Well would not comment about the discussions, Chevron said in a statement that it "cannot speculate how long the fire may burn. As we gather more information at the well site, we will be in a better position to provide more details."

"Our plans include efforts to control the well by shutting off the flow of natural gas and taking all appropriate procedures to protect the other wells on the pad. …

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