Work visible at NNE wellpad at Morgantown - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Work visible at NNE wellpad at Morgantown

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Morgantown residents have noticed new activity at the highly visible Northeast Natural Energy wellpad in the Morgantown Industrial Park across the Monongahela River.

"There is a crane and some scaffolding or some type of structure that was definitely not there before," said Marc Glass, resident of nearby Westover.

Glass said he noticed "lots of crane motor noise when it operated and clanking of pipe and such … I did also note a strong odor from the satellite equipment … I'd  describe it as a dirty butane smell, but I only noticed it in the park and fairly close to the equipment, say within 200 yards."

Controversy in 2011 over the wells sited at that wellpad led Morgantown City Council to ban drilling with hydraulic fracturing within a mile of city limits. NNE challenged the ban and got it overturned in Monongalia County Circuit Court.

The Morgantown Utility Board, which played a key role in the communications and negotiations about permit conditions with NNE throughout the 2011 process, also noticed the recent activity.

MUB General Manager Tim Ball said in a Nov. 4 email message that he had not been notified about any work at the site, but that he had contacted NNE and been told, "The work is on one of the two existing wells. They are adjusting a pipe position (insertion depth) for more efficient gas withdrawal."

NNE founder and President Mike John offered elaboration by e-mail.

"Our recent well work in Morgantown was undertaken to adjust the position of the tubing that was already in place within the well bore," John wrote.

The tubing is 2 7/8-inch-diameter pipe located inside the 5 ½-inch production casing, he wrote. Its purpose is to improve flow efficiency and it can be adjusted up or down within the wellbore to affect production.

The company undertook the adjustment to "optimize" or "enhance" the well flow, he said, and not in response to any negative or unexpected condition.

"We want the well to be able to deliver as much natural gas as possible to the town of Morgantown this winter," he added.

John said he did not have an explanation for the smell that was noticed.

The work was done using specialized equipment that maintained a "static (no-flow) condition" in the well, he wrote.

"Equipment on site as the work was performed encapsulated all activity within the well," he concluded. "I have no knowledge as to what else was going on within the industrial park during that time that may have caused an odor."