Abandoned Well Suspected in McKean County Explosion

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) thinks this February 28, 2011 gas explosion might have been caused by one of three abandoned gas wells in the vicinity. Photo by Jay Braddish

Luckily, Thomas Federspiel of Bradford Township in McKean County Pennsylvania was outside of his home when it suddenly exploded on February 28, 2011. He was able to rescue his dogs, too, but his house didn’t fare as well, taking an estimated $250,000 in damages, according to the Erie Times-News.

This fire, combined with a similar incident on December 12, 2010 have gotten the attention of U.S. Senator Bob Casey, who urged federal input into the investigation, which he suspected might be due to recent gas drilling operations:

While investigations are ongoing, the initial determinations are that these harrowing incidents were not caused by any gas utility issue. Rather, it appears that the gas may have migrated from deep underground during periods of high barometric pressure coupled with seismic activity and extensive new deep drilling activities.

The DEP recently suggested that the issue might be related to abandoned wells in the area, rather than new gas drilling activities. Three nearby uncapped abandoned wells were discovered, all of which are at least 90 years old. The well that the DEP considers to be a suspect in the February explosion, Rogers 9, was drilled in 1881.

Wells are considered to be abandoned if they have been out of production for twelve months.