Ohio Gas Well Was Spewing Methane Pollution Three Weeks After Blowout

The XTO Methane disaster. (Screenshot: Earthworks)The XTO Methane disaster. (Screenshot: Earthworks)

An oil and gas drilling pad where a fiery explosion led to the evacuation of about 100 people in Ohio’s Belmont County last month was still spewing raw methane into the atmosphere nearly three weeks after the initial well blowout, according to an infrared video released by environmental watchdog group Earthworks on Tuesday. Workers reportedly brought the well under control Wednesday morning. 

While much of the national media has yet to take notice, Earthworks is comparing the accident in Belmont County to the 2015 natural gas disaster in California’s Aliso Canyon, where a storage well blowout allowed more than 100,000 tons of methane pollution to spew into the atmosphere near Los Angeles over a four-month period. The disaster brought national attention to the climate impacts of methane, a natural gas that can cause 86 times more climate damage than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

On February 15, well operators with XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, lost control of the Belmont County natural gas well while servicing a fracked well at the same site, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local reports. Fires broke out and explosions occurred, spewing thousands of gallons of drilling fluids containing toxic chemicals such as hydrochloric acid and 2-butoxyethanol into the air and a tributary of a nearby stream.

XTO workers were able to gain control of the well and stop the leak on Wednesday morning, according to a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). In all, the wellhead leaked for about 21 days after the initial blowout.

XTO estimated that the damaged wellhead was leaking methane gas at a rate of 100 million cubic feet per day, according to the EPA’s initial emergency response report. The Aliso Canyon leak emitted an average of 49 million cubic feet of gas per day, or about half as much for a longer period…

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