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Wayne County, IL Fracking Blowout – Two injured

Fairfield Rig Explosion Highlights Loopholes in Illinois Fracking Regulations

On a sub-zero degree Monday, January 27th, the casing blew out of a Woosley Operating Company oil rig near Highway 15 southeast of Fairfield, IL, wherein, two SAFE volunteers witnessed the wreckage the following Tuesday morning.  Local reports said that two workers were injured in this explosion.  A Wayne County Press article downplayed it as a “hydrogen” frack on a conventional vertical oil well.  However, witnesses documented a Nabors nitrogen tanker truck, Franklin Well Services trucks that were removing damaged rig parts, an open unlined waste water pit, and the frozen blowout fluid all over the immediate adjacent cornfield where there was no setback for the rig or pit.  What appeared to be a volunteer firefighter truck and state government minivan were onsite. Franklin Wells Services is a drilling fluids and fracking supply and equipment company, with Halliburton related methods, and offices in Vincennes, IN and Lawrenceville, IL. Nabors, a very large global drilling company, that drilled the world’s first horizontal well, also does slant drilling and offshore drilling.  Apparently this operation, that appeared to be an unsuccessful nitrogen test frack, was in violation of existing regulations, but SAFE does not have further information on its status.  SAFE witnesses reported their findings to the Attorney General’s office, but decisions rest with IDNR on how to handle the incident.  This “dry fracking” method is increasingly being used to decrease the large volumes of water required for horizontal hydraulic fracturing, but it too is done with various chemicals — nitrogen, CO2, propane being common.  Acidizing is another method, whereby the sediment is dissolved vs. fractured during the drilling process.  These alternative methods generally do not use more than 80,000 gallons of base fluid in any stage or more than 300,000 gallons total, which are the quantities of base fluid that trigger the definition of “high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing,” circumventing the new Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act.  This and other legal research into citizen rights has caused SAFE to reframe its thinking about fracking, wherein all manner of subsurface trespass must be considered.  Our next education, lobbying and legal efforts will incorporate further consideration of these evolving methodologies.

Frozen fluid from the blowout, spread about the cornfield.


Rig coated with frozen fluid from the explosion, with open unlined waste water pit in foreground.


The open, unlined waste water pit near the frack rig.


Franklin Well Services truck, hauling off the damaged rig parts.


Nabors nitrogen tank truck.

Close-ups of the distinctive HazMat 1977 placard and nitrogen label on the Nabors truck.

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