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EPA wants answers from Chesapeake

Pennsylvania drilling suspended

THE US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has demanded that Chesapeake Energy disclose information on its shale-gas operations and hydraulic fracturing (fracing) fluids after a well blew out last week.

The EPA has given Chesapeake 15 days from receipt of the letter, dated 22 April, to provide a comprehensive list of fluids it uses in fracing, as well as details of where it sourced the chemicals.

Chesapeake lost control of a shale-gas well in Pennsylvania just before midnight on Tuesday 19 April. The well bore blew out during fracing work, causing thousands of gallons of flowback fluids to escape into a tributary of the Susquehanna River.

The company was able to contain much of the overflow at the site, but liquid, believed to be completion fluids, spilled into a nearby stream. Seven families in Leroy Township, in Bradford County, were evacuated as a precaution.

After the accident the EPA asked Chesapeake for a list of fracing fluids used at the well alongside data on how surrounding water, land and air in Leroy Township would be affected by the spill.

Chesapeake said in a statement on 26 April it is working with federal, state and local agencies to co-ordinate its response efforts. “We intend to comply with the EPA’s request for information and have already communicated with the agency about how best to prioritise its requests in relation to the overall and continuing response efforts.”

No-one was hurt in the incident, which Chesapeake said was caused by equipment failure, and there are no reports of natural gas being released into the atmosphere.

Chesapeake, which had 87 active wells in Pennsylvania, suspended its fracing operations in the state last week following the accident. Chesapeake said it had replaced a damaged wellhead and gained control of the well on Monday 25 April.

The blowout, which happened on the eve of the anniversary of the Macondo disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, has added fuel to a fierce debate about fracing’s impact on the environment. The EPA is carrying out a two-year study into the environmental effects of fracing and its impact on drinking water. The results are expected by the end of 2012.

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