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Officials analyzing composition of gas geysers

Updated:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) An investigation of natural gas geysers along a creek in rural central Oklahoma indicates a well miles away may be to blame for the strange releases of explosive vapors, a state regulatory spokesman said Tuesday.

``The data and the evidence at this point, as unlikely as it appears, points to a Chesapeake drilling operation,'' said Matt Skinner, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates oil drilling. ``If this theory is correct, this would be something geologists would be writing about.''

Gas has been shooting to the surface along a five-mile section of Winter Camp Creek and some of the geysers are within about a mile of the town of Kingfisher.

A natural gas drilling rig being operated by Chesapeake Energy Corp. 12 miles west of Okarche experienced an unusually large flow of gas last week and investigators are trying to determine if gas from this well may have moved laterally to the creek area. Meanwhile, Chesapeake plans to turn the exploratory rig into a producing well by Thursday to draw off the natural gas that may be to blame for the geysers.

The geysers are from one to 12 miles away from the Chesapeake drilling operation, which had reached a depth of more than 9,000 feet last week when it tapped into the huge flow of gas. About the same time, natural gas began bubbling up in the creek and flinging water and mud into the air, Skinner said.

Tom Price Jr., Chesapeake vice president, said the company would do everything it could to rectify the situation and help local residents who may be affected. He said it was extremely unusual for natural gas from a drilling operation to surface miles away from a well.

``We have drilled thousands of wells in Oklahoma and hundreds of wells every year and we have never in the company's history had anything like this,'' he said.

Hunters first noticed the leak on Friday and told a game warden who notified the commission.

For a time, the leaks appeared to be advancing toward Kingfisher, but this migration appears to have stopped, Skinner said.

If gas were to come to the surface in Kingfisher, there would be public safety concerns because the gas is highly flammable. Also, there would be the possibility that local drinking water could become tainted.

Steve Loftis, emergency management director for Kingfisher County, said there has been no indication that gas has gotten into the city water system or into local wells.

``If people's well water starts getting contaminated or if the gas starts migrating towards town, we do have the threat of possible health issues and we would need to start trying to protect citizens,'' he said.

Loftis said there are a number of homes along the creek, but none of the gas leaks are affecting these homes.

``We've been going around telling people who live in area, 'If you start smelling gas around your home contact us immediately,''' he said.
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