Talisman Energy, a major Marcellus shale natural gas driller, shut down its hydraulic fracturing operations throughout North America for an eight day period following a well blowout in Pennsylvania. The Calgary, Canada based company resumed its fracking operations on Wednesday.
The blowout, which Talisman characterized as a “well-control incident,” occurred on January 17 at a natural gas well located on state forest land in Ward Township, Tioga County. Media reports indicate a needle valve on a casing wing valve failed, which resulted in loss of well control.
During the well control incident, which began during hydraulic fracturing of the well, fracking fluids and sand discharged from the well into the air. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said its inspectors verified that the fluids had been contained to the lined well pad. The DEP is awaiting the results of test to determine if any soil contamination occurred.
The DEP sent a notice of violation letter on January 24 which requires Talisman to submit a sampling plan for the site, information on any fluids released, an analysis of the main cause of the incident, and changes to be implemented in all of its Marcellus natural gas drilling operations as a result of the incident. The company has five days to respond to the letter.
Fracking involves injecting water, sand, and a cocktail of chemicals at high pressure into rock formations thousands of feet below the surface to release gas deposits buried deep in shale. The natural gas drilling method is exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Fracking proponents almost always point to the supposed environmental benefits of natural gas to back up their support for the industry, asserting that it is a less-polluting substitute for oil and coal. But an analysis by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that fracking operations emit more greenhouse gases that first thought. Though still cleaner than coal and oil, emissions from fracking were up to 9,000 times higher than previously reported, according to the EPA. The greenhouse gases emitted each from leaking loose pipe fittings and gas flaring at well sites is roughly equal to what is emitted by 35 million automobiles annually.