This article originally provided by Wheeling News-Register

June 8, 2010

Minimize Risk In Gas Drilling

Using powerful equipment to drill holes through hundreds of feet of rock into formations containing highly flammable gas or oil, is not without risk. On Monday, the danger caught up to a drilling crew in Marshall County.

Seven men were injured when a well just off U.S. 250 between Moundsville and Limestone exploded early Monday. All seven were burned badly enough to require transport to the West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh. Two had been released as of late Monday and others were treated at local hospitals.

Investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration began looking into the accident Monday. Their first task will be to determine just what happened.

Initial reports were that the explosion occurred when a pocket of methane gas in an abandoned coal mine was hit by the drill. In West Virginia, where some counties are honeycombed by old mines, it is not unusual for oil or gas wells to be drilled through without incident. Clearly, something went badly wrong this time.

It is expected to take a few days before the fire, shooting 70 feet into the air from the well, can be extinguished. Only then will it be possible for OSHA investigators and, presumably, those from state agencies, to get close enough to the drilling rig to pursue their probe.

We urge them to do so as quickly as possible.

The Northern Panhandle has become a center of gas drilling activity because of the potential to tap enormous reserves in the Marcellus Shale formation. Beyond any doubt, circumstances similar to those encountered at the Marshall County site will be present at other wells.

Until more is known about what caused the explosion, drilling should be suspended at other wells where there is a possibility old mines may be encountered.

Again, some risk is inherent in the business of drilling gas and oil wells. Everything possible needs to be done to minimize it, however.


West Virginia Surface Owners' Rights Organization
1500 Dixie Street, Charleston, West Virginia 25311