UPDATE 2-Authorities probe fatal blast at Chesapeake Energy drill site in Texas

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Federal and state authorities on Thursday were investigating an explosion at a Chesapeake Energy Corp oil well in Texas that killed one worker and injured three others.

The blast occurred on Wednesday at a remote site near Deanville, Texas, about 75 miles (120 km) east of Austin as contractors for Chesapeake Energy were using a workover rig, according to Sergeant Jimmy Morgan, a spokesman with the Texas Department of Public Safety. A workover involves re-entering a well to boost its production.

The fatality was the first in Texas involving a blowout since April 2013, when two Basic Energy Services workers were killed in West Texas, according to data from the Texas Railroad Commission, the state’s energy regulator. A blowout involves a sudden, high-pressure release of oil or gas from a well.

Three workers suffered burns in Wednesday’s blast and were airlifted to hospitals in Austin and Houston. The drill site was in a pasture in a rural area, Morgan said.

Representatives for Dell Seton Medical Center in Austin and Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston declined to comment on the injured.

Chesapeake Energy spokesman Gordon Pennoyer said the company would provide information as it becomes available. He did not provide details of Wednesday’s incident or the name of the contractor providing the well services.

The number of workers in Texas injured during well blowouts has declined in recent years amid the rise in shale drilling. There were nine workers injured in blowouts last year, compared with 14 in 2017 and 21 in 2016, state data showed.

Railroad Commission investigators and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which investigates work-site fatalities, said they had opened probes.

Reporting by Jennifer Hiller in Houston and Liz Hampton in Denver; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney

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