Criminal charges have been filed against Equitrans Midstream Corp. in connection with a 2018 house explosion in Greene County that the Pennsylvania attorney general alleges was the result of a leaking natural gas storage field nearby.
Three people inside the home, a couple and their 4-year-old son, suffered severe burns in the explosion in Clarksville on Halloween 2018. A statewide grand jury investigated the explosion and determined that a conventional gas storage well near the home was badly deteriorated and had been leaking gas for years, making its way into the groundwater and the family’s water well.
The grand jury recommended charges against Equitrans Midstream under the state’s Clean Stream Law for failing to properly maintain the well and failing to conduct an investigation after the explosion.
The Pratt Storage Field operated by Equitrans is under the home. “Gas that was stored in the Pratt Storage Field migrated vertically into the groundwater through a nearby storage well which was deteriorating and leaking,” a press release from the attorney general’s office states. The investigation determined that Equitrans had acknowledged in federal filings before the explosion that Pratt field was losing gas and that wells within the field were leaking gas.
There are numerous natural gas storage fields in Western Pennsylvania, which allow gas operators to store excess gas underground in various geological formations that can be quickly accessed when demand is high or to balance pipeline capacity.
There are five main types of underground storage: salt caverns, mines, aquifers, depleted reservoirs and hard rock caverns. Many of those in this area, like the Pratt Storage Field, are depleted reservoirs that are no longer producing oil or gas. The removal of the oil or gas leaves behind pore space that can be used to store the injected natural gas. Equitrans Midstream, which is based in Southpointe, is a gas transmission company that operates pipelines, compressor stations, and 18 storage reservoirs throughout Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The family injured in the explosion filed a civil lawsuit against Equitrans, which is pending.
A company spokesperson provided a statement to the media indicating that it fully cooperated with the grand jury and presented evidence that it believes shows Equitrans operations were not responsible for the explosion.