* Well leaks natural gas, drilling mud -Chesapeake
* Sixty-seven residents asked to evacuate
* No injuries or explosions reported
By Selam Gebrekidan and Joshua Schneyer
NEW YORK, April 25 Dozens of residents were
evacuated from their homes after a Chesapeake Energy-operated
well leaked natural gas and drilling mud in Wyoming, the
company said on Wed nesday.
Chesapeake lost control of a shale well late on Tuesday
while installing a casing, triggering the leak, the company said
in a statement. It wasn't clear how much gas or fluid escaped
A "cloud" of gas could be seen a mile away from the
blown-out well, said Russ Dalgarn, coordinator for the Converse
County Emergency Management agency in Wyoming.
No injuries, explosion or fires have been reported, and air
quality readings near the well were "normal" on Wednesday, with
the leaked gas "dissipating into the atmosphere," Chesapeake
coordinator Kelsey Campbell said in a statement.
The company has plans to "bring the well under control" as
soon as safety conditions permit.
The cause of the incident was under investigation.
Sixty-seven residents within a 2.5 mile radius of the
stricken well were asked to evacuate, Chesapeake said. The
evacuation was voluntary, and several residents chose to remain
in their homes.
"A blowout in a well builds uncertainty and distrust. We
need more careful monitoring and regulation of drilling
activities in the state," said Bruce Pendery, program director
at Wyoming Outdoor Council, an environmental group that has
pressed for heightened scrutiny of drilling in the state.
The boom in on-shore production in shale oil and gas --
often near homes and populated areas -- has heightened concern
about these accidents. The Rockies and Northern Plains region
has stepped up drilling of promising oil and gas reserves in the
Niobrara Shale, which straddles Colorado and Wyoming.
The regional office of the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) is sending an inspector to the site of the
accident. EPA received reports of an oil sheen on an irrigation
channel and a pond near the well, said agency spokesman Martin
McComb. Neither is a source of drinking water for nearby
communities, he said.
Chesapeake may have encountered a pocket of high-pressure
natural gas while drilling the well, McComb said.
Chesapeake said the oil-laden drilling mud that leaked from
the well is mostly being contained on site.
Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake is the No. 2 U.S. natural gas
driller. Last year, it signed a joint-venture agreement with
Chinese national oil firm CNOOC for a third of its Niobrara
Around a year ago, Chesapeake had a blowout on a well in the
natural gas-rich Marcellus shale of Pennsylvania. It took six
days to bring under control and prompted a fierce backlash among
area residents opposed to the drilling method known as hydraulic
fracturing, in which water, sand and chemicals are pumped deep
underground to fracture hydrocarbons-bearing shale rock.
In Wyoming, Governor Matt Mead said the state will
investigate this week's incident, to get a "better sense of what
can or should be done in the future."
Chesapeake shares rose 2 percent to $18.13 on the New York
Stock Exchange on Wednesday.