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The Shaw Well Pad Incident: A Summary

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

By: Micayla Schambura and Moriah Seibel 7/18/2020

Beaver Run Reservoir surrounded by flares

Original artwork by Waterways Illustrators, commissioned by Protect PT, depicting the Beaver Run Reservoir


The Shaw 1G is an unconventional gas well managed by the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County (MAWC) and monitored by CNX Gas Company LLC (CNX). Unconventional gas sources are often difficult to extract from in contrast to a conventional well due to specialized techniques being required, such as hydraulic fracturing.

The Shaw Pad is housed near Beaver Run Reservoir located in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, which is the source of water for roughly 130,000 citizens between the Westmoreland, Armstrong, and Indiana counties [1]. On January 1, 2019, operations at this well began by drilling into the Utica Shale, which is below the typical fracking Marcellus Shale level. However, on January 26th, at 5,200 feet below the surface, the steel casing used in its operations failed due to a ‘pressure anomaly’, and flaring, or the combustion of gases, within the nine nearby wells was required to relieve the sudden pressure spikes until the situation was under control [2]. Air monitoring from January 30th ensued until March 1st where samples were analyzed by a PACE Analytical Services LLC in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In March 2019, SLR International Corporation (SLR) prepared a report of the sampling data collected during this incident, and they concluded that “no elevated levels of pollutants were caused by the Shaw Pad Event and the ambient air around the area of concern never exceeded any of the OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits or would have adversely affected the surrounding community” thus “no ambient concentrations would be of concern with respect to the public’s welfare” [3]. However, what was found was that two carcinogens, benzene and methylene chloride, were detected at every monitoring site. CNX has made no comment regarding benzene but concluded in the report that methylene chloride’s presence was not from oil and gas operations but rather ‘consumer use propellants and/or paint stripping operations’ [3] despite not providing the chemical composition of the fracking material used.