The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has issued two notices of violation to AB Resources PA, LLC., for violations of the conditions of its permit and has ordered the company to halt all of its West Virginia operations until the cause of the Monday morning’s explosion can be determined.
The DEP’s preliminary investigation into the incident at the well site near Moundsville, in Marshall County, indicates that the operator failed to follow the plan outlined in the permit, which possibly created conditions that led to the explosion.
The incident injured seven workers and a 50-foot flame continues to burn at the site.
The notices cited AB Resources, which is the permit holder for the site where the incident occurred, for failing to set casing at the permitted depth and for inaccurately reporting the coal seam depth in the permit application. Casing consists of steel pipe that supports the well bore and seals off water and gas.
The cease operations order requires the company to review the reported coal seam and casing depths for all drilled and proposed wells; take all steps necessary to comply with West Virginia Code requirements for a person trained in blowout prevention to be present at all times during drilling rig operation; and demonstrate knowledge and an understanding of the events that led up to and the cause of the June 7 incident.
In the last two years, AB Resources has received 19 permits for operations in West Virginia, all in Marshall County. The agency will review all of the company’s active permits to ensure AB Resources is complying with the state’s regulations and permit conditions.
“We want to review the company’s activities at other sites to ensure that similar conditions do not exist that could lead to a similar outcome,” said Cabinet Secretary Randy Huffman. “Our goal is to prevent this from happening elsewhere.”
In the last two years, interest in drilling in West Virginia has increased because new technology makes it possible for operators to develop the Marcellus Shale formation, which lies beneath much of the north central part of the state. Currently, there are more than 500 wells drilled in the state with the Marcellus formation as the target.
The new technology and the increase in activity has led the DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas to begin a comprehensive review of its program. The review is looking at staffing levels, funding, agency policies and the regulatory structure.