Report faults Chevron site managers in deadly gas well fire, notes untrained worker

Environmental investigators faulted Chevron Inc. site managers in a report released Wednesday on a natural gas well fire in western Pennsylvania that killed one worker.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection report said that a contract worker with no oil field experience worked on the well, contrary to company policy, and that the February fire "may have been caused by human error" when a lock screw was ejected from the well, allowing high-pressure methane gas to escape.

The report also said Chevron's well site managers did not always provide enough oversight to contractors at the site about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh.

A Chevron spokesman said the company is reviewing the report.

The investigation found that the inexperienced worker "was not supervised closely" as he used a tool on the well bore in the days before the fire and had not been trained on the procedure "or any other well procedure."

The department also said that in the week before the fire, apparently "no fewer than seven persons" served as well site manager and they may not have sufficiently communicated among themselves.

The report found that both DEP and Chevron also could have done a better job informing the news media of details about the fire, which burned for days.

The blast killed Ian McKee, 27, a field service technician for Houston-based Cameron International. His parents have filed a negligence lawsuit against Chevron.

DEP previously cited Chevron for nine violations at the well site, and also said the company improperly restricted state access to the site for the first two days.