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Explosion at Gas Well Injures Three Workers

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February 27, 2011

The fiery explosion of a storage tank at a Pennsylvania natural gas drilling site injured three workers.

About 6:30pm on February 23, three gas company workers sustained serious injuries when a natural gas liquids storage tank at a well site in Independence Township of Washington County exploded as workers flow tested an active gas well.

Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, a subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy Corporation, operates the well site.

Reuters reports that workers were in the process of transferring gas condensate into storage tanks when the explosion occurred.

"As a result of the flash fire the first of five 500-barrel storage tanks caught fire, igniting the others," Chesapeake said in a statement.

The State Journal reports that more than 20 fire crews responded to the fire. It took more than three hours to bring the fire under control.

According to a release by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the agency’s Emergency Response personnel responded to the scene. The DEP dispatched investigators to the site on February 24. A DEP spokesperson told The Intelligencer that, “A volatile vapor from the condensate ignited. This then caused the tanks to catch fire.”

All three employees, whom the Post Gazette identified as Russell Schoolcraft, 48, Frank Lancaster, 35, and Richard Lancaster, 50, required hospitalization at UPMC Mercy Hospital for their injuries, two with injuries so severe they were air lifted to the hospital. As of February 27, Richard Lancaster remained in critical condition, the other two workers released.