The shale gas industry's rapid expansion has introduced risks of serious accidents, explosions, worker injuries, property damage and environmental harm.
Specifically, Marcellus Shale exploration and drilling causes industrial accidents including well blowouts, fires, methane leaks, loss of well control and gas migration.
Marcellus Shale -- a deep underground rock formation extending from Ohio and West Virginia into Pennsylvania -- holds the United States largest natural gas reserve comprised of hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.
Although geologists have known about this massive reserve for years, recent drilling innovations including hydraulic fracturing ("Fracking"), coupled with higher energy prices, have greatly increased mining of Marcellus Shale natural gas.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 2,500 Marcellus Shale drilling permits were issued between 2007 and 2009 and 5,000 permits were issued in 2010.
Each project involves constructing a "well pad" and drilling a "well bore" to depths of up to 6,000 feet.
The majority of Marcellus Shale wells use “fracking”, high pressure pumping of millions of gallons of chemically-treated water mixed with sand deep into the ground to break up the shale and release trapped natural gas.
Drilling fluid wastewater spills or leaking into holding pits pollutes rivers, streams and aquifers killing fish and contaminating local water supplies.
Marcellus Shale Accidents
The oil and gas exploration industry's growth has strained existing state regulatory safeguards exposing property owners, businesses and workers to accidents, injuries and environmental damage.
Drill operators often encounter unexpected natural gas pressures in areas that haven’t been drilled previously causing blowouts and injuries. Further, sparks from a drill bit can ignite trapped methane, a highly volatile gas, severely burning workers.
Natural gas also migrates underground from improperly constructed wells, building up to explosive pressure beneath houses and buildings.
Injuries in a Marcellus Shale well drilling accident often result from the employer's negligence or lack of workplace safeguards.
Further, those whose property is damaged or contaminated by well drilling, may have claims against a drilling rig operator or gas exploration companies.