The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has concluded its examination of a June 7 incident in which AB Resources’ contracted drilling operations on a well in Marshall County resulted in the well catching fire at the surface, injuring seven workers.
The Office of Oil and Gas has determined that AB Resources has complied with the terms of the Order to Cease Operations that was issued on June 10 and has abated the underlying violations. Therefore, the agency is lifting the Cease Order, which releases the company to resume its operations in West Virginia.
While OOG staff are confident that the methane that accumulated under and around the drilling rig was from the mine void encountered during the drilling process; and that a combustible mixture of methane and air was present at the drilling rig floor; what remains unclear is the specific ignition source.
“The exact ignition source may never be determined, but some evidence points toward equipment located near the drilling rig,” said James Martin, Chief of the Office of Oil and Gas. “It would be a disservice to the company, the industry and especially the injured workers to concentrate solely on what ignited the fire rather than the underlying causes and what measures need to be taken to prevent this from happening again.”
Measures to be taken by the company include contacting inspectors when the company encounters unexpected mine voids and modifying casing programs as necessary; installing gas detection monitors on the drilling floor on all of AB Resources’ West Virginia operations; and using additional well control planning at shallow depths. In addition, the company intends to undertake even further routine safety checks to identify possible ignition sources.
“AB Resources has been fully cooperative during the OOG’s thorough review and the company understands that it has a continuing obligation to disclose information to the OOG as it becomes available,” Martin said.
“The examination by the OOG is independent from any investigations being conducted by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. However, it is our determination that AB Resources has demonstrated a knowledge and understanding of the events and cause of the incident, as well as the ability to safely resume operations.”
At the appropriate time, the OOG will address penalties with AB Resources. The main requirement of the Order to Cease Operations placed on the company was for it to demonstrate to the agency that it could safety resume drilling operations.
All of the materials related to the examination are located on the agency’s website at http://www.dep.wv.gov/oil-and-gas/GI/Pages/ABRes.aspx