A fire raged at Statoil's Eisenbarth well pad in Monroe County Saturday, sending a giant plume of black smoke into the air that could be seen for tens of miles.
According to a release issued by the company it was extinguished by late Sunday afternoon. Statoil stated Sunday that the fire involved surface equipment at the location; none of the wells were on fire. Statoil also reported that a well inspection team was on site that morning and all wells were secure and "are shut-in."
In a Monday evening statement released by New Martinsville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Larry Couch, he stated that the New Martinsville Volunteer Fire Department was alerted to the fire at approximately 9:40 a.m. Saturday morning and responded with two apparatus and their hazardous materials/foam trailer. Ten NMVFD personnel responded to the call from the Clarington VFD's request for assistance. "We, along with the Clarington officials, were advised by Statoil personnel at the site that a hydraulic fluid leak in some equipment may have occurred in the far west end of the well pad which may have ignited the blaze," Couch stated.
Statoil officials say the blaze at the Eisenbarth well pad involved surface equipment and not an actually gas well. (Photo provided)
The remote location of the well pad, when combined with an abundance of equipment and an assortment of chemicals and explosives on the site, made attempts to halt the fire challenging, if not nearly impractical, according to Couch. He stated that the NMVFD cleared that scene shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday.
Couch's release noted that there were no injuries, although some firefighters and well workers were treated for what seemed to be heat related ailments. Also, it was noted that Monroe County and Clarington Volunteer Fire Department officials evacuated homes in the immediate area in the event any of the wells became involved in the fire.
Furthermore, numerous water tank trucks from throughout the region were brought in to shuttle water into the site. Couch's release notes that numerous plans to attack the fire "were thwarted each time by the changing nature of the fire and the materials that were burning, along with numerous minor explosions from the equipment and supplies that were burning."
"From what we could see when we arrived, there were several pieces of heavy equipment already on fire, Couch said, "including several compressor rigs, tractor trailers, fuel trailers, and other similar equipment."
"The nearby water sources simply weren't sufficient to control this fire and the water that was taken into the scene was hauled in by truck from several miles away along the Ohio River."
According to Couch, Statoil representatives were estimating the damages at the well site into the tens of millions of dollars.
In an interview by phone with the Wetzel Chronicle, Bjorn Otto Sverdrup of Statoil stated that the company's focus is "on the safety of the personnel and to make steps together with local authorities to minimize the impact on the families in the community." Sverdrup noted that Statoil has not spent much time assessing the damages on the site, but noted there were trucks, pumps, and machinery on the site and that "a large part of that was demolished."
Sverdrup stated that Statoil is "so very grateful for the local responders and firefighters . . . they did a wonderful job." He added that a temporary evacuation did take place and "we have established a hotline or a contact line, and we can offer support, and we have personnel available up there now." Statoil set up a site, statoilresponds.com related to the specific incident; the company encourages users to sign up for updates concerning follow-up work, to submit an inquiry, or read the most up to date information. According to the "Statoil Responds" site, local individuals who have been potentially impacted by the Eisenbarth well pad fire can get in contact with Statoil at 1-866-893-9512.
According to Sverdrup, the fire "probably broke out shortly after 8 a.m." and was not out until "quite late Sunday afternoon."
However, according to Statoil's Facebook page, the fire was being managed as of Saturday evening.
Sverdrup stated that one of Statoil's goals was to "reduce possible further environmental damages." He added that Statoil was aware that "there are reports that there are fish kills in the nearby creek."
"We take those reports very seriously, and we work together with the local and state environmental authorities," he added.
Bethany McCorkle of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources described the fish kill as "significant" and confirmed it is located at Opossum Creek in Monroe County. She said that the DNR has not determined the cause of the fish kill and details are limited. However, McCorkle stated the Ohio DNR is on scene with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. When asked if the fish kill occurred after the Eisenbarth well pad fire, McCorkle stated, "We had notification of it Sunday, so the timing was after the well fire."
Requests for information from Monroe County Emergency Management Authority Director Phillip Keevert were not responded to. However, Keevert appears to be staying close to the scene of the fire as the following was posted to Monroe County Emergency Management's Facebook page late Monday night: ". . . Day 3 at the well site... Another thanks goes out to Clarington Fire / EMS and Woodsfield Fire for coming out tonight and putting out the rest of the hot spots at the site.."
In a Facebook posting from late Sunday night on Monroe County EMA's Facebook Page, Keevert thanked several volunteer fire departments and businesses who offered assistance and support during the situation. These included the following: Clarington Volunteer Fire Department and EMS, Sardis Volunteer Fire Department, Woodsfield VFD and EMS, Lewisvillle VFD, Belmont County Tanker Task Force, New Martinsville VFD, Moundsville VFD, Powhatan Point VFD, Paden City Volunteer Fire Company, Monroe County Sheriff's Office, Monroe County Engineers, Ohio Department of Transportation, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Belmont County Emergency Management Agency, State of Ohio EMA, Belmont County Salvation Army, and Monroe County Commissioners.
Keevert also thanked Wild Well Services from Houston, Texas, as well as Quinet's Court Restaurant for providing meals.
"We still have several days of clean up and assessment for this well pad fire," Keevert noted.