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5:49 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Gulf of Mexico Well Evacuated Due to Uncontrolled Gas Flow

This article has been updated.

A natural gas well in the Gulf of Mexico, located approximately 50 miles east of Venice, is releasing gas uncontrolled and has been partially evacuated, according to the well's operator and a report today in Fuel Fix, an energy news website operated in part by the Houston Chronicle.

Apache Corp., the operator of the rig, is attempting to kill the well, and is sending a drilling rig manned by employees of the Boots & Coots company to the site to drill a relief well if it becomes necessary. Boots & Coots oversaw the drilling of the relief well at the BP Macondo spill site in 2010.

15 workers were evacuated from the Ensco 87 rig, which sits in 218 feet of water, after tests found natural gas had migrated from the 8300-foot well to a sand formation approximately 1100 feet below the seabed.

There are still 50 people on board the rig, according to a press release issued by Apache.

This uncontrolled flow happened after a blowout preventer had been activated. According to Fuel Fix:

Problems first arose  on Feb. 4, when workers on the Ensco 87 jackup rig detected a kick, or uncontrolled flow of fluid, in the well. In response, they activated a blowout preventer, which apparently was  successful in keeping natural gas from escaping the well.

However later testing revealed that gas had migrated from the bottom of the roughly 8,300-foot well to a shallower sand formation 1,100 feet below the seabed.

The Ensco 87 rig.
Credit Rigzone

The Federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has said they have not detected any gas on the seafloor, nor pollution at the location.

"The good news is all of the systems we had in place worked when we experienced a kick while drilling this gas well, which resulted in unusually high pressure," said Apache spokesman John Roper. "Also good news that there were no injuries or impact to the environment. We've sent divers down and they have confirmed the seafloor has not been breached and there are no bubbles on the surface. Everything is deep underground."

Roper also notes that the incident occurred in shallow water, and that only gas is involved, not liquid hydrocarbons such as oil.

Ensco 87 is a jackup rig operated by Apache, and owned by Ensco, an independent drilling-services provider.

The rig was manufactured in 1982 by Marathon LeTourneau at the Vicksburg, MS shipyard, according to details provided by Rigzone. It is rated to operate in 350 feet of water, and can drill down to 25,000 feet.

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