Cause of Lebanon gas rig fire still under investigation

NORWICH – An investigation into what caused the region’s most recent rig fire at a well operated by Norse Energy, Inc. is ongoing, said a spokesperson for the Norwegian-based natural gas company.

Dennis Holbrook said there were “no immediate answers at this time” for last Thursday morning’s fire on Soule Road off of Lebanon Hill Road in the Town of Lebanon.

The well, located 5.5 miles from Smyrna, is one of approximately 100 that Norse either operates or has been permitted to drill in the towns of Lebanon and Smyrna.

The fire ignited at 4:40 a.m. by an unknown source while operators were in the process of removing the drill piping. The explosion injured two workers, who were treated for first and second degree burns at a hospital and later released. Safety responders from Norse, Madison County firefighters, emergency officials from Chenango County and representatives from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation were all on the scene, the latter to remediate a diesel spill from one of the vehicles at the site. The fire was extinguished at about 2 p.m. with foam and water, officials report.

The explosion and ongoing fire could be heard by surrounding neighbors who were asked by Norse officials to remain in their homes and away from their windows.

According to the NYSDEC, the drill pipe was being pulled from the well in preparation of the operators setting the casing. “The gas flow was unexpected – it had not been encountered at this depth in any other well drilled in the area. DEC is still in the information gathering stages and is awaiting submittal of an incident report from Nornew,” said Yancey Roy, spokesperson.

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