The State of Ohio has completed its extensive review of a well pad fire in Monroe County from June 2014, and is in the process of assessing penalties for the loss of aquatic species, spill cleanup and water quality violations. Both the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) conducted reviews of the incident at Statoil’s Eisenbarth well pad.
“Last year’s well pad fire in Monroe County was an unfortunate incident that negatively impacted habitat in the surrounding area while forcing nearby residents to leave their homes,” said Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler. “Thankfully, there were no injuries and we were able to learn from the incident and take significant steps to strengthen statewide response efforts.”
ODNR’s investigation concluded that 1) fluids left the well pad, which is a violation of state law; 2) the company failed to maintain operational control on the well pad; and 3) the company disposed of brine fluid in an unapproved method. It was confirmed the fluids from the well pad depleted oxygen levels in the stream, which negatively impacted aquatic life. Further, the fluids leaving the well pad violated several Ohio EPA water-quality standards designed to protect aquatic life.
“Ohio is demonstrating how state agencies can collaborate to solve problems as our oil and gas industry continues to grow,” said ODNR Director James Zehringer. ”We’ll continue working to improve our safety protocols to be as efficient and effective as possible when responding to future incidents.”
Since the incident, Ohio EPA and ODNR have implemented a number of policies to strengthen efforts to respond to oil and gas-related emergencies, including:
Requiring onsite, unified incident command for first responders and private companies, in order to ensure the safety and protection of individuals, resources and the environment.
Forming and activating within ODNR an Emergency Response Team of highly trained experts that can be deployed at any time to work alongside Ohio EPA and local responders to address oilfield incidents. The team includes biologists, hydrologists, radiologists and engineers. ODNR responds to spills on the well pad, and Ohio EPA focuses on off-site releases.
Holding nine regional tabletop training exercises with state and local responders and industry representatives to practice command processes and priorities in order to make leaders more effective and aware of available resources. One such resource is the improved notification system to ensure that when an incident is reported, it will be routed to all necessary agencies and first responders.
Overhauling ODNR’s oil and gas databases to track oilfield incidents and corrective actions.
Executing new Memorandums of Understanding between ODNR, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Commerce to help Ohio’s state agencies improve incident response, including the full disclosure with Ohio EPA of chemicals used by any private company covered by trade secret and to establish broader authorization for the Department of Commerce to inspect oilfield structures at ODNR’s request.
Both ODNR and Ohio EPA are pursuing civil penalties to address violations that occurred as a result of the incident. After the penalties have been assessed and collected, the State plans to provide as much as $75,000 to local first responders to aid in their efforts to respond to future incidents. Once Statoil fully complies with state penalties, it can work with ODNR toward restarting production at its Eisenbarth well pad.