Workers Injured in Pa. Blast

Chesapeake says three hurt as tanks on top of well burn in Washington County

Wheeling WV  Intelligencer
24 February 2011
By Casey Junkins

AVELLA, Pa.- An explosion ignited natural gas liquids storage tanks at a Chesapeake Energy well site in Avella, Pa., around 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, hospitalizing three contract employees with burn-related injuries.

Chesapeake media relations specialist Jacque Bland said the cause of the "flash fire" was still under investigation late Wednesday. She said the resulting blaze does not pose a danger to area residents or threaten the environment.

Many area fire departments responded to the scene, including some from Brooke County, emergency officials noted.

An official from Texas-based Boots & Coots International Well Control Inc. - the firm Chesapeake generally employs to extinguish gas well fires - was unaware of the fire late Wednesday.

Natural gas liquids include byproducts found in the gas gathered in much of northern West Virginia and western Pennsylvania. These materials include ethane, propane, butane and pentane, which are pulled away from the methane, or "natural gas," in gas processing facilities.

Recently, there has been much discussion in the Northern Panhandle regarding the potential value of natural gas liquids. Bayer would like to bring an ethane cracking plant to the Upper Ohio Valley. The "cracker" plant would process ethane, turning it into ethylene for use in plastics.

Caiman Energy, MarkWest Liberty and Dominion Transmission are also processing, or planning to process, natural gas liquids at facilities in Marshall and Wetzel counties.

Although this accident involves NGL tanks, it is not the tri-state area's first gas-related accident. An AB Resources well about 6 miles south of Moundsville exploded in June.

A Chesapeake well on Pleasants Ridge near Cameron ignited in September.

There have also been numerous traffic accidents involving gas rigs being transported on narrow roads.