The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is investigating a well control incident that occurred Jan. 17 at a Talisman Energy natural gas well located on state forest land in Ward Township, Tioga County, according to a press release from DEP.

The release continues:

Talisman also has been conducting its own investigation and has been cooperating fully with the department.

"This was a serious incident that could have caused significant environmental harm had it not been brought under control," said DEP North-central Regional Director Nels Taber in the release. "DEP is conducting a thorough investigation to determine why this incident occurred."

Talisman began having problems controlling the well in the early afternoon of Jan. 17. The well was successfully shut in about 3:45 p.m. that day.

During the well control incident, which began during hydraulic fracturing of the well, fracking fluids and sand discharged from the well into the air. It does not appear that any significant amount of natural gas was released and there was no fire or explosion.

DEP Oil and Gas and Emergency Response program staff responded to the well, and Talisman Energy contacted CUDD Well Control to assist with gaining control of the well. CUDD recently opened an operations center in Canton and was able to quickly respond to the site.

Talisman voluntarily shut down all hydraulic fracturing operations in North America while investigating the cause of this incident.

Inspections conducted last week by DEP staff verified that the fluids had been contained to the lined well pad. The fluids were cleaned up by a contractor and further sampling will be conducted to determine if any contaminated soil needs to be removed.

Oil and Gas Program staff also collected soil samples last week from beneath the well pad liner. Those results have not yet been received.

The department sent a notice of violation letter on Jan. 24 which requires the company to submit a sampling plan for the site, information on any fluids released, an analysis of the main cause of the incident, and changes to be implemented in all of its Marcellus operations as a result of the incident.

When asked for comment, Mark Scheuerman, spokesman for Talisman, said Talisman was responding with a statement on its website. It reads as follows:

"At 12:10 p.m., Monday Jan. 17, 2011 there was a water-based fluid release at a Talisman operated well, DCNR8 in Tioga County, Pa. Talisman's Emergency Response Plan was immediately activated and the well was brought under control at 3:35 p.m. The DEP and all applicable regulators were notified at the time of the incident."

"There were no injuries, all equipment was shut off, fluids were contained within the well site and cleaned up. Our investigation is ongoing and we are providing information to the DEP. Our preliminary findings indicate the cause of the incident was due to a mechanical issue on the well site. As a result, we have modified our component design to prevent this from reoccurring."

"The safety of our employees, community residents and stakeholders is our first priority. This is a regrettable incident and we will apply the learnings from it to the continuous improvement of our well site operations. The well is located about five miles east of Blossburg, Pa."

Information for this article was provided by DEP and Talisman Energy.