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W.Va. DEP Halts Work At Site Of Gas Well Blast

VICKI SMITH

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) â¿¿ State environmental regulators on Thursday issued two violations against a gas company and ordered it to stop all operations in West Virginia until the cause of a rig explosion that injured seven workers is determined.

The state Department of Environmental Protection cited the permit holder, AB Resources PA LLC of Brecksville, Ohio, for failing to comply with its permit plan and said those failures may have created the conditions that led to Monday's blast near Moundsville.

A telephone message to AB Resources was not immediately returned.

Union Drilling Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas, was sinking a well for AB Resources and another company, Dallas-based Chief Oil & Natural Gas, when it struck a methane pocket in an abandoned coal mine it had been drilling through. As the crew began to remove the drill string early Monday morning, the methane exploded.

What caused the ignition has yet to be determined, but a 50-foot column of flame continued to spew from the hole Thursday as the methane burned off and a team of rig-fire experts waited to cap it.

The DEP said the crew failed to set casing â¿¿ the steel pipe that seals off water and gas â¿¿ at the required depth. AB Resources also inaccurately reported the depth of the coal seam underneath its operation, the agency said.

DEP's order requires AB Resources to review the coal seam and casing depths for all its existing and proposed wells, to keep a person trained in blowout prevention on site at all times and to "demonstrate knowledge and an understanding" of what caused the explosion.

In the past two years, AB Resources has received 19 permits for operations in West Virginia, all of them in Marshall County in the Northern Panhandle. DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said his agency will review every active permit to be sure AB Resources is complying with state regulations.

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