Approximately 4,700 gallons of hydrochloric acid spilled at a Leroy Township, Bradford County well pad operated by Chief Oil and Gas at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. According to the well operator Chief Oil and Gas, about 4,000 gallons of the spill was contained by a plastic liner around the well pad. Chief Oil and Gas said most of the liquid that left the pad was trapped by a sediment pond below.
Allegedly the fluid spilled from a disjointed valve on a tractor-trailer that was connected by a pipe to a pump, which injected the acid into the well during the process of hydraulic fracturing. The spill occurred after a hydraulic fracturing operation, while workers were breaking down the site. It is not yet known whether the valve failed or had been left open by a worker.
DEP officials are investigating the spill. The department took soil samples on and around the well pad, which is located off Southside Road in Leroy Township, and sent them to a lab for analysis. Results aren’t expected for several weeks. Department investigators worked at the site until 2:30 a.m. the day of the spill and returned the next day to observe site cleanup. Investigators also wanted to ensure that the spill did not reach nearby Towanda Creek. About 50 gallons did reach a tributary in the creek, causing a small fish kill. DEP installed a rubber dam to prevent the tributary from entering the creek.
Hydrochloric acid plays a key role in the hydraulic fracturing process. After a natural gas well hole is bored, thousands of gallons of water mixed with acid are pumped down into the well—to clear out cement debris left over from the drilling stage, and to help open up the underground shale fractures.