Husky gas well blast injures 11 in Alberta

Mon Mar 7, 2011 6:17pm EST
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - An explosion at a Husky Energy Inc natural gas well west of Edmonton, Alberta, has injured 11 people, at least one seriously, officials said on Monday.

The blast occurred during drilling operations at a site near Edson, Alberta, just before noon local time, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said. The fire was extinguished.

There were no reports of deaths. Two of the injured were expected to be airlifted to hospital, the RCMP said.

One of those was listed in serious condition and the other was stable, police spokeswoman Doris Stapleton said.

Husky spokesman Graham White said the injured workers were contractors, but he did not know the name of the company or what the crew was doing at the time of the blast.

The company was drilling for "sweet" gas, which doesn't contain deadly levels of hydrogen sulfide, he said in an email.

White said the blast occurred during fracturing, or "fracking", operations, an increasingly popular method in which companies pump chemicals into the well to crack up the rocks deep underground so that the hydrocarbons flow more freely.

The technique has been a major factor in the development of shale gas reserves across North America.

"Initial reports are that none of the injuries is life-threatening.," he said. "A full investigation will occur and all authorities and regulators have been notified."   Continued...