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Chesapeake pays $75,000 fine for problems that led to Oklahoma well blowout

The January blowout near Sweetwater in western Oklahoma happened after a drilling rig hit an unexpected, shallow pocket of gas. A later investigation found casing in a nearby Chesapeake well had failed and caused the gas to migrate.
by Paul Monies Published: July 21, 2012

Chesapeake Energy Corp. has paid a $75,000 fine to Oklahoma regulators for problems that led to a January well blowout in Roger Mills County.

The blowout and fire near Sweetwater in far western Oklahoma happened Jan. 5 and wasn't brought under control until Jan. 11, according to an incident report filed at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

Nobody was injured in the blowout.

The rig, operated by Chesapeake's Nomac Drilling LLC subsidiary, hit a previously unknown zone of pressurized natural gas at 925 feet. An internal review by Chesapeake found production casing in one of the company's nearby wells had failed in summer 2011 and was most likely the source of the shallow natural gas pocket.

Chesapeake had shut in the nearby well in June 2011 after finding pressure changes, as well as mud and shale in equipment and lines, the report said.

Inspectors in the commission's oil and gas conservation division found Chesapeake should have told the agency about production problems with the nearby well. They also faulted the company for not having a blowout preventer on the well that exploded.

“Chesapeake completed a thorough internal investigation to determine the cause of the incident and was proactive in sharing its findings with the (Oklahoma Corporation Commission),” the incident report stated. “Chesapeake has completed a new internal policy of checking data from wells offsetting any proposed new well in this area for indications of potential similar problems.”

Chesapeake declined to comment on the fine, saying the case was pending before the commission. The company didn't explain why it had already paid the fine if the matter was pending.

An administrative law judge has yet to send a proposed order to the three-person regulatory panel for its final approval in the case.

Read the Oklahoma Corporation Commission incident report...
by Paul Monies
Energy Reporter
Paul Monies is an energy reporter for The Oklahoman. He has worked at newspapers in Texas and Missouri and most recently was a data journalist for USA Today in the Washington D.C. area. Monies also spent nine years as a business reporter and...
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