OSHP releases aerial footage of Powhatan Point well pad
BELMONT COUNTY, Ohio —
The Ohio State Highway Patrol has released aerial footage of the Powhatan Point well pad.
The helicopter video allowed disaster response units to conduct an aerial site assessment, and was critical to the panel of experts from XTO Energy, The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency and others.
On Feb. 15, calls with 911 reported a "gas well fire with explosion" on Cats Run Road.
"We were doing something called completion,” said XTO Energy Spokesperson Karen Matusic. “So we were not fracking and we were not drilling, we were preparing the well to be brought on to production."
"I told my husband 'This sounds like a swarm of bees',” said resident Carol Matesick.
Emergency response team members secured the location and began to notify residents inside the half-mile evacuation zone.
"They came knocking on our doors and the fire department told us we had to evacuate,” said resident Chuck Passmore.
XTO and the EPA began monitoring for explosive levels of gas near the pad and air quality downwind of the site.
It was determined there was no health risk to the public outside of the containment area.
The proximity to Cats Run Creek was a concern and localized flooding made the situation more difficult.
There was also the possibility of contamination from potentially toxic well fluids and chemicals stored on site and used in the finalization process.
A crane used in finalizing the well had fallen on an adjacent Clinton oil well, causing additional concern.
"Immediately when the shut down, the shut down valve went on, so there is nothing flowing from those, but when the crane fell, it fell on one of those wells,” Matusic said.
Once the weather broke, well control specialists began clearing equipment from around the site to provide better access.
Seals and valves on adjacent wells were tested and extra valves were put in place to ensure no additional leaks.
Then, word came on Wednesday: the well had been contained.
"Our EMA Director Dave Ivan, who I mentioned earlier, has been giving us constant updates and he did just message Commissioner Meyer and I that the well had been contained,” said Belmont County Commissioner J.P. Dutton.
The process took 20 days.
All evacuated residents have returned home. The cause of the leak is still under review, but has not been determined.