Prove your humanity

A gas leak at a Cambria County gas storage site has been plugged, according to its owner. 

Equitrans Midstream announced that the well was plugged over the weekend. The company had initially reported plugging the well Nov. 17. But the next day, it reported that gas had begun to leak again. 

Natalie Cox, an Equitrans spokeswoman, said in an email statement that the company stopped the flow of gas from a leaking well at its Rager Mountain storage site on Saturday, Nov. 19, and plugged the well later that weekend. “(M)ore than 250 feet of cement was pumped into the wellbore above the plugs to ensure venting does not recur,” Cox said. 

The leak was first reported Nov. 6. 

The company reported “a preliminary, conservative estimate” that the well was losing 100 million cubic feet a day. That would put the leak in the company of other major gas leaks in recent years. It is the same rate of gas flow for a 2018 incident in which a well in Belmont County, Ohio, blew out. It is higher than the rate of loss from the 2015 methane leak at the Aliso Canyon gas storage site near Los Angeles, the largest methane accident in US history. That leak took four months to close. 

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a highly potent greenhouse gas, 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over short time periods. 

Equitrans says it doesn’t know what caused the leak. Residents near the site were warned about the leak, but there were no evacutations. A no-fly zone was established within one mile of the site, north of Johnstown, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. 

The DEP and the federal Pipeline Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration are investigating. 

The company stores about 9 billion cubic feet of gas at the site, which includes 10 storage wells and two observational wells. It was built over a depleted gas field that was first developed in the 1960s and later retrofitted to store gas. 

Equitrans says it will conduct a “full root cause investigation and analysis once the plugging operations have concluded” and that the company didn’t know when the facility would be back in service.  

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.