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West Virginia fracking explosion injures at least five

09 July 2013

An explosion on July 7 at a natural gas well site in West Virginia operated by Antero Resources injured at least five people, the company said. Officials with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration are on the scene investigating the incident.

A spark triggered a flash explosion and a fire after a problem during the flow back process when drilling fluids are pumped into storage tanks, according to Pat Heaster, director of emergency services in Doddridge County, about 100 miles north of Charleston. The explosion occurred about 50 feet away from the drilling rig, which was undamaged.

The flow back process is necessary after hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which millions of gallons of water and chemicals are pumped deep underground to release natural gas from shale rock.

Two storage tanks containing brine and fracking fluid from the well exploded, an Antero spokesman said, and five workers were taken to hospital with burns, with four in a serious condition. The company suspects the cause was a methane explosion, Reuters said in a report.

A DEP spokeswoman said a pump that malfunctioned appeared to be involved, though no conclusions had yet been made. A containment system around the well site had kept the tank fluids from flooding into the nearby area. 

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