Osage Minerals Council Director Bill Lynn said the site of the seeping gas well located on the Pawhuska Softball Field has been plugged, capped and the site will be restored today. The gas well was just one of the reasons why Pawhuska Public Schools delayed the start of school.
“We’ve done the best we can do and if something else should happen in the future we’ll be in good shape to handle it,” he said. “We asked the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] to test the gas on the location and there were zero readings outside the casing of the well.”
In mid-August, news releases notified the community that the start of school would be delayed due to the seeping gas well and leaking geothermal wells on the Pawhuska High School campus. Tribal, local and federal agencies acted quickly and an intergovernmental agreement was reached between the state of Oklahoma, the Osage Nation and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. The OCC installed a ventilation system for the geothermal wells on the high school grounds. The seeping gas well has been the responsibility of the Osage Minerals Council, since the BIA said it did not have jurisdiction in the matter.
The Osage Minerals Estate, owned by the Osage Nation, is under federal jurisdiction and the BIA is the federal agency that oversees the activities involving the minerals estate. However, BIA Eastern Oklahoma Region Director Eddie Streater told the Fifth Osage Nation Congress during their special session on Aug. 25 that they did not have jurisdiction in the matter because of 25 CFR Part 226. He said they interpreted the regulation to mean that the seeping gas well was not related to drilling activity because it was an unforeseen event and the OMC had jurisdiction.
School began on Aug. 28 for the Pawhuska Elementary schools, and school began three days later for the High School, after the EPA and State Fire Marshall declared it safe. The gas well near the softball field, however, was still leaking, Lynn said.
“We put 900 sacks of cement in it. It’s a very slight seep, it’s non-explosive, it’s below the explosive limit for natural gas,” Lynn said. “We decided since we stopped all the gas leaking outside the well and the very slight seep inside the well, which is just some vapors and there’s nothing blowing or bubbling out of it. We cut the casing off below ground level, and will restore the location and keep an eye on it.”
The well, which was reportedly drilled in 1915 and initially plugged in the 1940’s, has been plugged four times, according to a 24-page report by Consulting Engineer and Geologist Duane Winegardner. His report was presented to the Pawhuska School Board on Sept. 11 at its regular meeting.
“The original depth of the well was reported as 1,684 feet. A gas flow of this volume indicates a significant source with some substantial pressure,” he wrote in the report. He also wrote, “After plugging of the softball field well is complete, it will remove one location of gas formation venting; but the gas formation continues to have substantial pressure. Locations of other previously plugged gas wells should be tested to determine if they also have gas seeps.”
Lynn said they are going to keep a close eye on the area and routinely check gas levels at the well site on the softball field.
“We had good crews out there, guys with 40 years’ experience, working day and night, for three solid days to get done what we needed to do and so we let it set for two weeks to get a different reading and see where we were at,” Lynn said. “We had good results from the gas sensors and we capped it and they’re restoring the location today.
“We will give a final inspection before the BIA gives another final inspection to make sure the area is satisfactory,” Lynn said.
Pawhuska Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Janet Neufeld presented Winegardner’s report to the Pawhuska School Board on Sept. 11 and said she had received it earlier that day and that she would post it to the PPS website.
Affecting the high school were geothermal wells leaking gas. Geothermal wells are not gas wells; they are used for geothermal heating and cooling for the school. The OCC installed ventilation systems for the wells, the EPA conducted gas readings and cleared the way for the State Fire Marshall to deem it safe for school to begin.
According to Winegardner’s report, he recommended that if there is future expansion of the school and a geothermal system is used the construction of that system should be further away from the school. He recommended the use of horizontal wells because horizontal wells are shallow and would keep the geothermal wells isolated from gas sources, preventing any possible gas leaks in the future. He said if vertical wells are dug, he recommended they be dug no deeper than 150 feet.
Neufeld said as part of preventative measures, the OCC has given PPS a gas monitor reader and is providing training for staff to measure gas levels on a regular basis. If staff detects any changes in readings, they are to notify the OCC immediately. In the meantime, the OCC will keep monitoring gas levels until the staff is properly trained and can keep logs and records of the readings, she said.
Shannon Shaw Duty
Original Publish Date: 2017-09-13 00:00:00