Natural Gas Well Worker killed in Explosion in WV

WV gas well explosionA worker was killed in West Virginia in an explosion at an EQT natural gas well pad near Flemington in Taylor County on February 15, 2013.

The victim of this worksite accident was an employee of Central Environmental Services, a contracting company working for EQT. He was working alone at the time of his death.

The development of the Marcellus Shale oil and gas drilling in West Virginia provides many jobs, especially near Morgantown and Fairmont, WV.  Just as our coal miners have always faced hazardous conditions, the hard-working men and women employed by the natural gas industry are now facing similar dangers.

Central Environmental Services CEO released a statement on the death of their employee.  The employee was at a customer’s well pad near Flemington in Taylor County, W.Va, preparing to perform normal work-related tasks when an explosion occurred, killing the employee and causing some damage to the area where he was working.”  Company officials said the employee was on the worksite and near two of the tanks when the explosion took place.

The man was attempting to transfer briny wastewater from a tank into a truck. What sparked the explosion is unclear and will be the focus of the state’s investigation, already underway.

Drillers inject massive volumes of water, sand and chemicals to hydraulically fracture, or frack, the rock in which gas deposits are trapped. The gas then flows up for collection, as does the brine. The DEP says some of the chemicals in the brine could be flammable.

The executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association said EQT is calling the fatality an “industrial accident,” not an explosion, and he’s never heard of brine exploding.

“To the best of my knowledge, brine is not flammable,” he said. Accidents involving brine are typically spills, he said, “so that, I don’t understand.  Brine is 99.5 percent water and sand, and drillers typically do not add potentially flammable chemicals. What flows back up from a well is mostly salty water, and any chemicals are diluted.  Contrary to what some people like to say,” he said, “we don’t use diesel fuel or any of those kinds of additives that would be flammable.”

But a spokesman of the West Virginia Surface Owners’ Rights Organization said the fracking fluid often contains volatile organic compounds, “so brine tanks can have vapors of these that are surely explosive.  Many people who live near well pads are worried about those compounds being vented into the atmosphere and harming air quality.”

West Virginia Workplace Accidents

West Virginia workers have a long-standing tradition of working hard in spite of dangerous and exhausting conditions. Just as our coal miners have always faced the potential of industrial tragedies, oil and gas drilling workers are also experiencing similar tragedies resulting in serious permanent and fatal injuries. Injuries common to the oil and gas industry include severed fingers, broken bones, foot injuries, burns, toxic chemical exposure, disfigurement, and traumatic brain injuries.

Risk factors for oil and gas workers may include: explosion, workplace injuries, truck accidents, serious and catastrophic injuries, exposure to hazardous chemicals, industrial accidents involving heavy tools and complex equipment, contaminated air and water, hazardous driving conditions, fires, burns, malfunctioning equipment, and safety violations. Driving to and from the drilling site has become a major risk factor: one-third of all serious accidents and fatalities linked to fracking occur from trucking accidents.

Another recent example of the danger associated with gas and oil drilling occurred in an August 17, 2012 accident when a newly developed gas well exploded in Harrison County, WV, sending three workers to the hospital with severe injuries.

If you or your loved one has been injured due to negligence or willful violation of safety regulations in the workplace, it is important to act quickly to protect your claim. Mr. Robinette at the Robinette Legal Group has handled hundreds of cases involving serious injury and wrongful death and can provide the insight you need right now. Call Jeff Robinette today for a free evaluation of your case at 304-594-1800.

Source:  Associated Press, Vickie Smith, on Monday, 18 February 2013,