Details are finally being revealed about a terrible blowout that occurred last year at a natural gas site in Ohio. The incident happened at a site owned by an ExxonMobil subsidiary known as XTO Energy, and was reportedly one of the largest leaks of its kind in the history of the country.
The full extent of the blowout was never reported by the company but was discovered later by a group of scientists looking over satellite data of the area. A team of 15 Dutch and American researchers found that a blowout occurred on Feb. 15, 2018, at a natural gas well in Belmont County, Ohio.
The leak that caused the blowout was reportedly the result of controversial fracking practicing at the well.
The data showed that the methane emission rate of the leak was about 120 ± 32 metric tons per hour, which is twice the emission rate of the largest accidental methal leak in United States history, the Aliso Canyon event that took place in California in 2015.
At the time of the leak, over 100 residents who were within a mile of the site were forced to evacuate their homes as workers rushed to get the situation under control. Meanwhile, XTO Energy did their best to downplay the severity of the situation, and insist that it was not possible for them to calculate exactly how much methane was leaked.
Steven Hamburg, EDF’s chief scientist and one of the new study’s co-authors told the New York Times that these types of incidents probably occur on a regular basis, and researchers are hoping to be able to better understand precisely when they do happen so they can form a better opinion about whether or not fracking natural gas is safe and environmentally friendly.
“Is this a once a year kind of event? Once a week? Once a day? Knowing that will make a big difference in trying to fully understand what the aggregate emissions are from oil and gas,” Hamburg said.
Many politicians and environmental activists have pointed to this study as evidence that natural gas production is unsafe, and should not be supported, while ExxonMobil and other gas companies are promising to implement additional safety measures at their gas wells.
Hydraulic fracking, which has been controversial for other reasons for some time, has come under additional scrutiny in the wake of these findings.
Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside.
“A little known gas-well accident at an Ohio fracking site was in fact one of the largest methane leaks ever recorded in the U.S.”
— Trevor Charles Gowan (@Trevor_Gowan) December 16, 2019
Water, sand, and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure, which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well. Wastewater produced from this process is highly toxic and filled with a variety of chemicals.
In many cases, people who live near fracking sites have been able to set fire to the water and air that comes through their pipes. It is also suspected that fracking is responsible for an unusually large number of earthquakes that often happen in regions where fracking is taking place. Now it has been revealed that this method of gas extraction can also cause massive blowouts and methane leaks, which has bolstered the case to eliminate fracking from the industry. Earlier this year, the UK put a hold on all fracking practices until further research could be done to determine the risks.