CANTON - Operations at a natural gas well in Union Township near here have been suspended pending the results of an investigation of a methane migration.
According to Shell Appalachia spokeswoman Deb Sawyer, during routine operations on the Guindon 706 well pad in Union Township last Friday, well operators were informed that a private landowner in the area was experiencing a change in the functioning of his water well.
"Shell representatives immediately began investigating and found well conditions tested positive for methane. As a result, we suspended operations on the Guindon well pad," Sawyer said.
The state Department of Environmental Protection was notified of the problem on Sunday, according to DEP spokesman Dan Spadoni.
"Shell has several well pads in the area in various stages of completion. They stopped all operations in the area when notified of a problem involving a hunting cabin that had an overflowing drinking water well inside a mud room. The cabin is about 4,000 feet away from one of their well pads. Bubbling was also noted at multiple locations in a nearby stream," Spadoni said.
DEP Oil and Gas staff collected water and isotopic samples from the hunting club well and stream Monday, where additional surface expressions of gas along the road leading to the hunting cabin were discovered, Sawyer said.
"We are working collaboratively with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to continue a thorough investigation of the incident and develop remediation plans," Sawyer said. "In the short term, it may be necessary to de-pressure some wells on the identified pads that are currently shut-in. This action could result in the need to flare some natural gas through the systems on site for a period of time still to be determined," she added.
At the cabin, a Shell contractor drilled a hole in the water well casing and installed an overflow line to stop the overflow and installed methane alarms in the cabin to vent the well to the outside, Spadoni said.
"DEP has recommended the cabin not be occupied until further notice," he said.
According to Sawyer, Shell has placed security guards at both ends of the road to limit access and "is monitoring conditions continuously for any changes that may require additional controls."
On Tuesday, Shell's consultants had several teams begin screening within a one-mile radius of the hunting camp to check for methane gas and sample any private drinking water wells potentially impacted.
That screening continued Wednesday within a one-mile radius of the three Shell gas well pads in the area.
"Public safety is our first priority. We are currently working with Union Township and the Canton Township Fire Department and will continue to update the public as the investigation continues," Sawyer said.
Additionally, DEP oil and gas staff continued monitoring the hunting cabin and surface expressions Wednesday, Spadoni said.
"No determination has been made regarding the source or sources of the methane, and the investigation is continuing," he added.