Oil Well Explosion, Fire Send Smoke Over Eastern Tennessee

Friday, April 6th 2007, 11:30 am
By: News On 6

COALFIELD, Tenn. (AP) _ An explosion and fire at an oil well injured two workers Friday morning and sent smoke over eastern Tennessee, a rural area dotted with small oil and gas wells.

Workers drilling for oil hit a gas pocket shortly before 9 a.m. at a new well owned by Atlas America Inc., company spokesman Darrell Trett said. ``It's rare that an explosion occurs when you hit a gas pocket, but it happens,'' he said.

The fire continued to burn at midday but was contained at the well head.

The well is about 30 miles west of Knoxville in a mostly rural area without many homes.

Bill Goodwin, director and past president of the Tennessee Oil and Gas Association, said Atlas America has been a good operator and has drilled several wells in the area, an oil-bearing formation known as the Big Sunnybrook.

``It used to be, you'd have to have a major strike (to make recovery profitable),'' Goodwin said. ``With today's prices, that's all changed.''

Firefighters from surrounding departments, a county rescue squad and ambulances were sent to the well site. One of the injured workers was taken to a hospital for treatment, but the injuries were not believed to be serious, officials said.