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Fire Out on Hercules Rig and Natural Gas Well, Gas Flow Halted

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The natural gas well blowout and fire earlier in the week that spread to a jackup, causing part it to collapse, has gone out. The well owner and governmental organizations have set up a Unified Command to secure the well, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) said in a release Friday.

Firefighting vessels remain on the scene, working with the well owner, the rig owner, the U.S. Coast Guard, Wild Well Control, and other relevant parties, BSEE said.

Now, all the principals are trying to find out why the blowout occurred, and why preventative systems failed to work as designed.

The chain of events began Tuesday when Walter Oil & Gas’ A-3 natural gas well in South Timbalier 220, off the coast of Louisiana, suffered a gas leak, resulting in a blowout. That brought about the safe evacuation of 44 rig workers, James Noe, a vice-president with Hercules Offshore, owner of the rig, told Rigzone.

The gas that continued to leak from the well ignited around 10:50 p.m. local time Tuesday and the fire spread to the rig, the Hercules 265 (250’ MC) jackup. Several hours later, the rig derrick collapsed and continued to burn, and Walter Oil & Gas began thinking about drilling a relief well.

Before the well owner had to make that decision, the natural flow of sand and sediment into the well bore plugged the well in a process known as “bridging over”. With the flow of natural gas cut off, the well fire soon burned out, and the fire on the rig was contained to the portion of the rig that had collapsed. That fire has since burned itself out, as well.

A visual inspection of the rig Friday morning indicated that the rig’s structural integrity remains intact.

Throughout the event, BSEE and the U.S. Coast Guard have been and are continuing to monitor the situation, and are conducting flyovers to assess the status of the well and rig. A flyover Thursday night failed to reveal any sheen on the water.

A light sheen detected earlier in the week soon dissipated. Fires on natural gas wells are considered by experts to be much less environmentally threatening than fires on oil wells.

“Work continues to secure the well, and all options are being considered for the most efficient and safe path forward,” the BSEE said in a news brief. “Safety of personnel and protection of the environment remain the top priorities for responding to the event.”



Gene Lockard has more than a decade of journalism experience covering the energy and petrochemical industries. Email Gene at gene.lockard@rigzone.com.

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