City Planning for the Inevitable Catastrophic Event at Gas Well Sites


“This is coming to a neighborhood near you,” Ahmed Fakhri, Wild Well Control senior safety and emergency response specialist, told Arlington fire fighters. “Sooner or later you are going to have an event.”

Is your city ready for the inevitable event?

According to an article in the Star-Telegram, Arlington firefighters are in training for catastrophes at gas wells but the fracking industry is suing the City of Arlington because they don’t want to use any of their record profits to pay for the training.

Arlington firefighters train to deal with fires at gas wells
Posted Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012

A few items for your consideration:

  • There are approximately 2.5 blowouts per 1000 wells .(There are nearly 16,000 Barnett Shale wells.)
  • Oil & gas fires can burn for a long time. A really long time.
  • Well sites are not secure so tampering happens,
  • Equipment at well sites gets broken/wears out.
  • Vapor clouds of toxics accompany most of these events.
  • It takes a specialized emergency crew like Wild Well Control a minimum of 4 hours to respond.

The City of Arlington will charge a $2,397 fee per well to help fund the emergency preparedness program.

Industry representatives have argued against the gas well program, saying it could create “potentially unsafe measures, unreasonable costs and additional burdens that may prohibit the industry from quickly and safely managing any unforeseen or unplanned critical incident.” The industry also calls the additional inspections unnecessary given well operators’ safety record within the Barnett Shale.

In May, the Texas Oil & Gas Association and the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association sued Arlington, saying the city is trying to unfairly “expand its revenues by taxing a single industry.” That suit was filed in a Tarrant County civil court.
Who ya gonna call?
Those wise guys are so funneh. Drive through the Barnett Shale and count how many well sites have visible emergency contact information posted. Guess who responds to emergencies at gas wells in the Barnett Shale.

About Sharon Wilson

Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.


  1. Nick says

    With 16,000 wells drilled, how many have had a catastrophic event?

    When anyone in the oil & gas business comments on anything industry, it’s always a conflict of interest..How is it any different for a company that fights fires for a living to say you need them?

    • says

      Yeah, there is a huge difference between a corporation that is raking in billions in record profits and the local fire department that is funded with our taxes. Nice try though.

      • NIck says

        That map isn’t anywhere near the Barnett Shale. I was trying to put it in perspective. Of the 16,000 wells you report drilled in the area none have resulted in a catastrophic event. Someone must be paying attention.

        • says

          User error? You can move the map around to show different areas of the country. The map is in the very early stages so they do not yet have all the accidents marked.

          If you have a spill on our property or near your property or in your drinking water, then it is a personal/neighborhood/aquifer catastrophe. If there is a spill of toxic vapors into your air through a release or leak, then your serenity, enjoyment of your property, property value and even your health can be harmed and it certainly is a catastrophe for you and your neighbors.

          There have been several catastrophes in the Barnett Shale. One recent one was the Magnablend fracking chemical explosion. We will never know the full impact of that catastrophe because of the cover ups. But I will never forget the explosion, fire, smoke and then the wall of foam several feet high that was rushing down the creek headed south.

          Would you like me to keep going to help you with your perspective?

          You do not do yourself or your industry any favors by minimizing the impacts and your condescending attitude.

          • Nick says

            No “condescention” intended. I understand the problems close to locations during & after drilling operations have been completed. it’s not a good situation for anyone involved. You might be suprised at the training the industry already has in place & is available 24/7/365, just an automatic or phone alarm away.

            I can only hope it gets better as more experience in unconventional resource recovery matures. Longer & multiple laterals will help some. I truly believe the industry has the capability to prevent fresh water contamination from drilling & completion operations. BUT, I also believe that the surface problems associated with setting up the wellbore for production will be the tough row to hoe & improve.

          • says

            I certainly hope the industry gets its act together soon because guess who takes a good portion of those emergency calls as things stand? That would be me.

            Most sites do not have emergency contact listed. I don’t blame them much though because it sucks to get calls at all hours of the night.

            The cart is before the horse. Slow down until you can figure where the cart goes.

  2. says

    After gas spewed off an Arlington, TX Chesapeake site in the middle of the night terrorizing and poisoning my family, we became well acquainted with the dangers of heavy industrial mining near homes and schools. I fear the inevitable – more events like this – and worse.

    It is unfortunate that our Fire Department needs specialized training in how to deal with these types of catastrophic events which will occur because of an industry that should not even be here in the first place.

  3. Jana says

    Another very frightening twist to this situation is that the operators have flocked to unincorporated areas that have little to no state or local protection. We have a 200′ set back from the inner most part of our homes and are protected by mostly volunteer staffed fire departments. We are grateful to those firefighters and the small local full time staff that responds to several cities in my area. I am reminded of the many incidents at Argyle Central, conveniently located just outside city limits. There have been several evacuations of the residents living close by. One time, the local fire department had to jump the fence to close off a stuck valve since they arrived way ahead of the operator. They were told that it was a good thing that the right valve was turned off, or that the whole area would have been blown sky high. Where are the operators emergency response teams in these emergent cases? Most sites aren’t even signed with current operator numbers or addresses. There is no regard whatsoever from the operators when it comes to the safety and welfare of the residents.

  4. Tillotson says

    As a resident of Arlington, I applaud the city’s efforts to prepare for possible accidents. we have complained to our City Council about the dangers and they are at least TRYING to do something.

    Frankly, I was shocked and disgusted that the drillers came out so publically against this. Even the royalty owners, who would gladly throw us neighbors of the rigs under the bus for a nickel, seemed put off by the drillers reluctance to pay for this.

    Of course, maybe some of them have started getting their meager royalty checks and have come to realize what scam artists the drillers truly are.

    • says

      It’s encouraging to see Arlington taking this step. I wish they would protect citizens from the emissions.

      The industry will fight every attempt to make them responsible.