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UPDATE: DEP Grants Antero Permission to Continue Operations Following Gas Well Explosion

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - State regulators say Antero Resources can resume operations at a Doddridge County gas-drilling site where a fire killed two workers and injured three others.

The Department of Environmental Protection lifted a stop-work order late Friday. 

Methane in a tank holding flowback fluid exploded July 7 near New Milton.

Colorado-based Antero was ordered to explain what happened and how it would safely resume work. The DEP found the first report incomplete but says a second, slightly more detailed document submitted this week satisfies the demand.

Antero must conduct a three-tiered review of equipment layout to ensure safe distances between potential fuel and ignition sources.

It will also install cylindrical storage tanks with latched hatches to help prevent the accidental release of flammable gas and will make workers wear portable gas monitors.

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--Original Story--

Antero Resources has requested that the Office of Oil and Gas allow it to resume operations at the Ruddy Alt Pad in Doddridge County where five men received severe burns in a July 7 gas well explosion that later killed two of the men. The report Antero was required to submit to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection was released Thursday afternoon.

The W.Va. DEP ordered Antero to cease operations at the site on July 12 and required that Antero provide a report demonstrating knowledge and understanding the cause of the July 7 explosion. Antero cites the explosion happened due to the presence and accumulation of gas from storage tanks on location, weather conditions exacerbating the accumulation of the gas, a concentration of heavier than methane hydrocarbons in the gas mixture, and an apparent ignition source near C&R quad-plex skid pump at the site, said the letter submitted by Antero Vice President Alvyn Schopp.

The two page letter also highlights actions that Antero said it plans to take at its future well completion locations, including requiring personnel to wear portable gas monitors. Antero also said it will consider installing fixed gas monitors for each location, based on individual site risk assessment. You can read the complete list here.

As part of the report requirements, Antero said pollutants weren't released on the Ruddy Alt pad and there weren't any associated with the fire.

The DEP found Antero's report to be incomplete, said spokeswoman Kathy Cosco in an email.  The original cease operations order is still in effect and will remain in effect until Antero provides a response that satisfies the requirements outlined in the original order, Cosco said.

In a letter to Antero sent Aug. 1, the W.Va. DEP ordered the company to submit an additional report explaining how it came to the conclusion and made its final determination about the cause of the explosion.  The DEP also requests that Antero explain how it determined that no pollutants were released during the explosion.

Jason Mearns, 37, of Beverly died Sunday, July 28 at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh as a result of the injuries he received in the fire, along with Tommy Paxton, 45, of Walton, who died at the same hospital on July 24. The men were employed by contractors hired by Antero. Three men remain hospitalized, although Antero is unable to provide their conditions.

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