Year after Wyo. blowout, Chesapeake Energy has not been fined

Chesapeake Energy Corp., which owns a Wyoming oil well that blew out and forced 50 people to flee their homes, has not been fined because the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission determined none of its rules were violated.
By MEAD GRUVER Published: April 12, 2013
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— Chesapeake Energy Corp., which owns a Wyoming oil well that blew out and forced 50 people to flee their homes, has not been fined because the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission determined none of its rules were violated.

A group of landowners and at least one affected couple were upset by the inaction against Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake, even after the commission said human error contributed to the complete loss of control last April 24 over the well 5 miles northeast of Douglas.

The commission — the state agency responsible for overseeing oil and gas drilling — imposes fines for rule violations, not because people don't like something that happens, interim Oil and Gas Supervisor Bob King said.

“Accidents will happen. I mean, you can't prevent every accident that is going to happen,” King said Wednesday. “We don't live in a perfect world.”

The damage

Investigators estimated the blowout released 2 million cubic feet of natural gas and up to 31,500 gallons of oil-based drilling mud.

The gas didn't ignite, and nobody was hurt. Specialists with Halliburton subsidiary Boots & Coots plugged the spewing gas three days after the blowout began.

An improperly installed lockdown pin on the wellhead contributed to the mishap after an underground pocket of gas began flowing into the well, according to the commission investigation report dated May 10.

Chesapeake managers promised to make sure employees and contract rig crews got trained on proper installation and maintenance of lockdown pins “as a lesson learned and ongoing best management practice,” the report said.

Oil and gas commission staff members, at the time working under Oil and Gas Supervisor Tom Doll, did not refer the investigation to the five-member panel to consider a fine. King became supervisor after Doll resigned last summer.

Chesapeake cleaned up the mud and offered payments to landowners that included compensation for having to stay in hotels, said Ryan Lance, director of the Office of State Lands and Investments and a commission member.

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Accidents will happen. I mean, you can't prevent every accident that is going to happen. We don't live in a perfect world.”

Bob King,
Wyoming interim

Oil and Gas Supervisor

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