Friday, November 18, 2022

UPDATED: After 14 Days, Efforts To Stop A Natural Gas Leak At A Cambria County Underground Gas Storage Area Have Apparently Been Successful

UPDATED: On November 20 at 4:48 p.m., the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Equitrans Sunday stopped a natural gas leak at the Rager Mountain Gas Storage Area in Jackson Township, Cambria County that had been going on for 14 days.

The Associated Press reported the well released an estimated 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas over those two weeks.

A specialized company hired by Equitrans tried several times over the last few days to stop the escaping natural gas.

On November 18, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported efforts to stop a natural gas leak at the Rager Mountain Gas Storage Area in Jackson Township, Cambria County failed.  

Company officials said they had stopped the venting at 12:15 p.m. on November 17, but residents near the facility are again reporting the roaring noise of a leak along with the odor of gas.

On November 19, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the company tried again to shut down the well and efforts were continuing to try to shut down the well.

The leak was first discovered at 3:30 p.m. on November 6 and according to the company about 100 million cubic feet of natural gas per day was escaping from the facility.

An estimated 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas has been released into the atmosphere, but a more accurate number will not be available until an inventory verification study is completed, according to The Allegheny Front.

A specialized company hired by Equitrans LP attempted to stop the leak by pumping heavy liquid into the wellbore to stop the gas flow.

DEP has so far issued five notices of violation to the company, including failure to provide initial access to the incident site, venting gas into the atmosphere and for failure to operate a gas storage well to maintain its integrity.

The well is a conventional gas well that was first drilled in 1965, according to DEP inspection reports.

Click Here to find the location on Google Maps(Courtesy of Bob Donnan’s Blog.)


On November 6, Equitrans LP said they were notified of the leak at approximately 3:30 p.m. and their technicians arrived on site about 4:15 p.m. to find natural gas venting from storage well 2244.  Read more here.

Residents living in the area were alerted to the leak by a very loud hissing or roaring sound and the odor of natural gas.  Residents continued to report smelling natural gas and complain of headaches and other health symptoms, according to media reports.

A safety perimeter was established and, in line with safety protocols, the local fire department also responded to the incident. 

The storage well is one of 10 operating storage wells and two observation wells located at the Rager facility, according to the company.  

After being notified of the incident, Equitrans LP said they immediately notified the National Response Center, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and the Department of Environmental Protection, and made a courtesy call to the PA Public Utility Commission. 

Equitrans LP also notified nearby residents within an approximately two-mile radius of the facility and local township supervisors to advise them of the situation and established a community hotline-- 888-574-6944-- for local residents to get general updates about the gas leak.

A November 7 DEP inspection report #3453319 said, “The well operator had lost control of the George L Reade 1 storage well and gas was escaping from the 4.5x7 annulus.”

The annulus of a well is the space between the inner and outer casing or piping of the well.

According to DEP inspection reports, the storage wells were maintained at a pressure of from 2,800 to just over 3,000 pounds per square inch.

The same report said at approximately 8:30 a.m. DEP inspector Justin Najewicz was denied access to the incident area “to witness the leaking well” because Equitrans LP said it was “restricted to critical personnel only.”   

The report notes DEP issued Equitrans LP a notice of violation for “failure to provide free and unrestricted access” to the site.

In its first statement on the incident November 7, DEP said it will maintain a 24/7 presence on site until the situation is under control.  Read more here.

A November 8 DEP inspection report #3454383 noted at approximately 4:21 p.m.-- about eight hours later on November 7, DEP inspectors were granted access to the incident area and said the uncontrolled release of gas was “ongoing.”

In the November 8 inspection report, DEP noted four major violations--

-- Failure of the operator to construct and operate the well to ensure its integrity is maintain to protect health, safety, environment and property;

--Venting gas to the atmosphere that produced a hazard to public health and safety;

-- Failure to operate and maintain the storage reservoir and its facilities as required; and

-- Conducting a drilling or production activity in a manner that creates a public nuisance or adversely affects public health, safety, welfare or the environment.

Other DEP inspections reports show the agency inspected other wells that were part of the Rager Mountain Gas Storage Area as part of its incident response between November 7 and 9.

These and other inspection reports are available in DEP’s Inspection Report Viewer Database under operator Equitrans LP.

As part of its initial response, the Department of Environmental Protection requested Equitrans LP to do air quality monitoring in the area and conduct a gas mitigation investigation.  DEP also said they ordered a temporary flight restriction in the area.  Read more here.

On November 8, Equitrans LP said equipment arrived on site that was needed to prepare to shut down the flow of gas. They were also working to redirect the flow of gas away from the immediate area where the work will take place to stop the venting.  Read more here.

On November 9, procedures to halt the venting of gas were unexpectedly delayed due to a change in wind conditions, which required a relocation of the on-site equipment to ensure safe operations. 

On November 10, all equipment was secured in position and activities to prepare and test the equipment for operations were completed.  Crews also successfully installed tubing to redirect the flow of gas away from the immediate vicinity of the storage wellhead where equipment will be utilized to stop the gas flow.

On November 11, efforts to halt the venting began, however, an obstruction was encountered in the wellbore, according to the company. Crews began work to identify the obstruction through the use of downhole cameras, and these efforts concluded on Sunday. 

Activities to remove the obstruction started on November 14 and were reported to be successful on Monday afternoon, Equitrans LP reported.

Equitrans LP also said it received agency approvals to begin withdrawing natural gas from four select storage wells at the Rager Mountain facility, and this work has been effective in reducing overall pressures in the storage field. 

The company said generally, physical flows of natural gas in/out of the Rager Mountain Storage facility remain temporarily suspended and, at present, there is no estimate for when the facility will return to full service.


In response to the natural gas leak at the Rager Mountain facility, PennEnvironment issued this statement--

“For Pennsylvania to do its part to tackle climate change, it must act swiftly and aggressively to rein in polluters who emit methane and other global warming pollutants,” Executive Director David Masur said. “Methane is a scourge wherever people drill for oil and gas and leaks are an inevitable byproduct.

“Pervasive fracking across Pennsylvania means that dangerous leaks, which can come during the fracking process itself, transport or storage — apparently, the case in Cambria County — pose constant threats to our health and environment. Fracking can taint our drinking water, pollute rivers and streams, contaminate public lands and subject Pennsylvanians to hazardous waste.”

“For now, we need Pennsylvania’s DEP and the federal Environmental Protection Agency to crack down on violators of our emissions regulations. Moving forward, the only long-term solution is to end fracking in the Keystone State. It’s long past time to end our antiquated reliance on fossil fuels, and transition our state to power generated by clean, renewable sources such as wind and solar.”

PA Gas Storage Fields

Pennsylvania has 51 active underground natural gas storage fields regulated by the Department of Environmental Protection.

The majority of the fields are contained within depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs (host rocks, typically sandstones, in which the economic oil and/or natural gas has been removed). As such, these locations coincide with historical oil and gas production, which is predominantly in the western half of Pennsylvania.

Click Here for a DEP factsheet on natural gas storage fields.

(Photo: From DEP’s November 8 inspection report showing gas leaking from the well;  Google Map showing coordinates of well from DEP inspection report. )


-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: Equitrans Natural Gas Storage Well Plugged With Cement, Company Says, Capping A 14 Day Leak

-- AP: Equitrans: Leak At Cambria County Natural Gas Storage Well Plugged After 14 Days Weeks, Releasing An Estimated 1.4 Billion Cubic Feet Of Gas

-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: An Attempt To Stop A Leaking Natural Gas Storage Well In Cambria County Has Failed, Venting Has Resumed

-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: Leaking Cambria County Natural Gas Storage Well Has Been Tamed, But Questions Remain

-- The Allegheny Front: Natural Gas Lake At Underground Storage Site In Cambria County Stopped After 11 Days

-- WJAC - McKenzie Jarrell: DEP Orders Gas Company To Monitor Air Quality In Area Of Leak

-- WJAC - McKenzie Jarrell: Progress With Jackson Twp. Natural Gas Leak

-- ABC23: Dishong Mountain Natural Gas Leak Update

-- Tribune-Democrat: Operations At Natural Gas Storage Facility Temporarily Suspended After Leak

Related Articles Over Last Week:

-- What Can We Expect From Gov. Shapiro, Lt. Gov. Davis On Environmental, Energy Issues?  [PaEN]

-- DEP Assesses $200,000 In Penalties For Drilling Wastewater Spills By CNX In Greene County  [PaEN]

-- DEP Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment -- Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities [PaEN] 

-- DEP Invites Comments On Proposed Cryptocurrency Data Mining Operation On Shale Gas Well Pad In Elk County  [PaEN]

-- DEP Invites Comments On Texas Eastern Pipeline Replacement Projects Affecting Cambria, Fayette, Huntingdon, Indiana, Lebanon Counties  [PaEN]

-- Washington County Family Lawsuit Alleges Shale Gas Company Violated The Terms Of Their Lease By Endangering Their Health, Contaminating Their Water Supply And Not Protecting Their Land  [PaEN]

-- Observer-Reporter: Ongoing Water Donation Drive Helping Dozens Of Greene County Families Who Haven’t Had Clean Drinking Water Since June Following Alleged ‘Frack-Out’ At Natural Gas Well Site  [PaEN]

-- YaleEnvironment360 - Jon Hurdle: As Evidence Mounts, New Concerns About Fracking And Health

-- Pittsburgh Business Times: Natural Gas Drilling Ban Supporters See Wider Effort In Allegheny County Towns 

-- After 11 Days, And The Loss Of About 1.1 Billion Cubic Feet Of Natural Gas, A Leak From An Underground Gas Storage Area In Cambria County Has Been Stopped  [PaEN]

-- Shale Gas & Public Health Conference: We've Got Enough Compelling Evidence To Enact Health Protective Policies For Families Now - By Edward C. Ketyer, M.D., President, Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania  [PaEN]

-- Shale Gas & Public Health Conference: When It Started, It Was Kind Of Nice, But What Happened Afterwards Really Kind Of Devastated Our Community - By Rev. Wesley Silva, former Council President Marianna Borough, Washington County  [PaEN]

-- Shale Gas & Public Health Conference: Living Near Oil & Gas Facilities Means Higher Health Risks, The Closer You Live, The Higher The Risk - By Nicole Deziel PhD MHS, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health  [PaEN]

-- Shale Gas & Public Health Conference: Economically, Socially Deprived Areas In PA Have A Much Greater Chance Of Having Oil & Gas Waste Disposed In Their Communities - By Joan Casey, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health  [PaEN]

-- Young Evangelicals For Climate Action Celebrates Stronger Proposed EPA Oil & Gas Methane Standard  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project Calls Proposed EPA Oil & Gas Methane Emissions Rule Good First Step [PaEN]

-- IRRC Approves Final VOC/Methane Emission Limits On Conventional Oil & Gas Wells - Federal Highway Funds Still At Risk; And First State MCL For PFOS/PFOA  [PaEN]

[Posted: November 18, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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