Driller fined for spills
State environmental regulators fined a natural gas well operator $192,044 for two spills in Wyoming County more than a year ago.
The state Department of Environmental Protection announced the fines against Houston-based Carrizo Marcellus LLC Wednesday.
In the early evening of March 13, 2013, hydraulic fracturing fluid started spewing from a frack tree, the set of pipes and valves attached to a wellhead during hydraulic fracturing, on the Yarasavage 1H well off Keiserville Road in Washington Township.
Workers with Carrizo were in the well’s 23rd stage of hydraulic fracturing. Loose bolts on the frack tree flange caused fracking fluid to escape at a rate of 25,200 to 31,500 gallons per hour.
The fluid was a mix of 87.72 percent water, 12.05 percent silica sand, 0.13 percent hydrocholoric acid and less than 0.1 percent of acids, salts, alcohols, surfactants and other chemicals used as biocides, friction reducers and inhibitors of corrosion and scale, according to a disclosure form on FracFocus.
Carrizo immediately set up containment and began vacuuming up spilled fluid, according to the DEP. Fearing a release of natural gas, emergency officials evacuated three families.
By noon the next day, Carrizo had shut in the well, cleaned up more than 170,000 gallons of fluid and families were allowed to return that afternoon.
A few days later, DEP issued a notice of violation requesting an explanation of how the company would prevent incidents like this in the future.
In response, Carrizo promised to tweak the configuration of its frack trees and devote additional equipment and personnel to check the connections and look for leaks, the DEP stated.
Efforts to reach Carrizo representative Meena Joshi were not successful.
A smaller spill occurred on April 30, 2013, on Carrizo’s Mazzara well pad, off Sickler Road in Washington Township.
A hose transferring fluid from a truck to a tank slipped and spilled 9,240 gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluid with a similar composition as the Yarasavage well. That fluid mixed with drilling mud, made of bentonite clay and freshwater.
The mix flowed off the well pad, soaking through a field stone foundation of a nearby home and seeping into its basement garage. It also flowed across a road to a pasture, forcing the temporary relocation of several miniature horses.
At the DEP’s request, Carrizo sampled potentially affected water supplies and provided drinking water. Its response to the department’s May 7 notice of violation indicated workers moving fluid from truck to tank didn’t follow proper procedure, the DEP stated.
Since the incidents, DEP’s Environmental Cleanup and Brownfields program removed contaminated soil. Carrizo is still sampling the groundwater periodically.