Lack of Safety Practices Behind 2020 Chesapeake Oil-Well Blast: U.S. Safety Board

December 29, 2023

A federal safety board investigation has found that Chesapeake Energy CHK.O and its contractors failed to provide adequate control measures at the site of a 2020 fire at a company-operated oil well, that claimed three lives.

The US Chemical Safety Board, which investigates industrial chemical accidents, said in a report published earlier this week that the well operator and its contractors failed to implement required well control measures at the Wendland Well in Texas.

Operated by Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy, the Wendland Well caught fire in January 2020 and led to three fatalities, the first in Texas involving a blowout since April 2013.

“Ultimately, a lack of established safety practices was a significant factor in this incident,” said investigator-in-charge Harold Griffin at CSB.

“In this case, the well operator and its contractors did not implement effective preventative safety measures consistent with industry recommended practices.”

Chesapeake did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

The CSB investigates major industrial accidents and makes recommendations to prevent accidents. It has no regulatory power, but it is influential because industry, labor, and U.S. government agencies often adopt its recommendations.

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