Es el peor temor de cualquier persona que trabaja en un pozo de gas natural.
Una chispa o un error en el trabajo causaron un fuego potencialmente mortal que arde fuera de control, causando aún más peligro para los expertos que tienen que venir para contener el incendio.
Esa es la situación en Dunkard, Condado de Greene, después de que algo causara que prendiera fuego un pozo de gas propiedad de Chevron en Marcellus Shale antes de las 7 am del martes, dejando a un empleado con una lesión menor y otro trabajador desaparecido y que seteme que haya muerto.
Video: Pozo de Gas arde en el condado de Greene
Este vídeo de Reuters muestra el pozo de gas en llamas en Greene County, que continua ardiendo. (Reuters video; 2/11/2014)
Más de 12 horas después de una explosión que “sonaba como un motor a reacción a 5 pies por encima de su casa”, como dijo un vecino , el fuego, alimentado por gas del pozo, continuó expulsanod llamas y humo al aire, causando un sonido que se oía un cuarto de milla de distancia.
El calor de las llamas – que causó un camión cisterna en el lugar yque estaba lleno de gas propano al explotar – era tan intenso que los socorristas de los departamentos de bomberos locales tuvieron que retirarse del lugar ante el riesgo que corrian.
“En esencia, se retiraron para dejar que el incendio se extinga”, dijo John Poister, portavoz del Departamento de Protección Ambiental de Pennsylvania, que tenía tres personas en las instalaciones de investigación.
La policia estatal dijo que llevaria dias contener el incendio.
“We’re being told … the site itself, that fire, will not be contained and we will not have access to that property for at least a few days,” Trooper Stefani Plume said at a news conference Tuesday.
Experts on well fires like this were flown in Tuesday from Houston.
Patti Green, a spokeswoman for Wild Well Control, the company Chevron called in to try to contain the blaze, said it would not be unusual for a response team to let a fire burn before making an attempt to knock it down.
The question that remained unanswered Tuesday was what caused the explosion.
Though the fire was initially thought to be a “blowout” in which there was loss of control at the well head during drilling that resulted in a release of natural gas, Mr. Poister said he has been told that it was not a drilling-related accident.
Instead, he said, the well had long since been drilled and crews were on site early Tuesday morning putting in pipe that would connect the well to Chevron’s gas-gathering network — the final stage before the well goes into production.
DEP records show that Chevron’s Lanco 7H well was drilled in March 2012 — as were two other wells on the same well pad — and had not yet begun to produce gas.
DEP’s online records also show the state had not issued any violations against Chevron for any problems related to the drilling of the three wells on the well pad.
In December, Chevron was given one violation for an incident related to the well site — for failure to comply with the terms and conditions of the state’s site permit — but no details of that violation were immediately available.
Chevron said the explosion occurred at about 6:45 a.m. Tuesday.
John Kuis, 57, of nearby Dilliner said he heard his dog Riley start growling early in the morning, seconds before he felt rumbling.
“Then the house just sort of shook and there was a big loud bang,” he said.
Mr. Kuis, who lives less than a half-mile from the well, said he saw smoke and flames out of his window and at first thought his neighbor’s home had blown up.
A contractor working for Chevron had 20 employees on site at the time of the explosion. Beyond the worker who was injured and the one who is missing, the other 18 workers were accounted for by 8:48 a.m., according to Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene.
Chevron employees came to the scene after the explosion and immediately decided to call in the experts at Wild Well Control, and police created a half-mile perimeter around the site.
No schools, homes or businesses are inside the state police perimeter, and state officials don’t believe the burning natural gas is toxic, Mr. Poister said, and the fire appeared to be contained to the well pad.
Wild Well Control has an office in Southpointe, Washington County, and “prepositioned” equipment to help with well control incidents at an office in Clearfield.
But local offices are not typically staffed with advanced well-control specialists — which Wild Well calls its “first response teams” — who would handle a well fire or other well control incident.
Most of those level of employees in the United States are based in Houston for Wild Well, and have to be flown in, Ms. Green said. That team arrived at the Pittsburgh International Airport at about 12:45 p.m.
The team arrived at the well site, after gathering equipment, at about 5 p.m. Tuesday and began “working with us to develop plans to safely address the situation,” Chevron spokesman Trip Oliver said in a statement.
Responding to such an incident is rare, even for Wild Well, one of the world’s best known well-control response companies. Last year Wild Well only responded to five surface well blowouts accompanied by fires and 25 other surface blowouts that had no fires.