Blowout at natural gas well releases drilling fluids to environment

A blowout at a Pennsylvania natural gas well late Tuesday could heighten concerns about the safety of a controversial process to extract gas from shale rock.

The accident comes at a sensitive time for energy drillers, exactly one year after an explosion that led to the massive BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and just as regulators mull whether to allow the technique in New York state.

The well in Bradford County, operated by Chesapeake Energy, spewed thousands of gallons of drilling fluid used in hydraulic fracturing, county emergency management officials said.

The process, also called fracking, releases natural gas from shale rock by blasting it with water, sand and chemicals.

Local residents were evacuated from Leroy Township, about 25 miles from the New York border, though Chesapeake said no one was hurt.

“An equipment failure occurred during well-completion activities, allowing the release of completion fluids,” Chesapeake said in a statement.

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