Personnel returned to the 265 Hercules rig after it caught fire last week following a blowout and the ignition of leaking gas at the South Timbalier 220 natural gas Well A-3. Flyovers and assessments confirmed that it was safe to return.
The action came following the July 23 blowout. The loss of well control led to the safe evacuation of 44 workers, Hercules Offshore, owner of the rig, told Rigzone.
A Unified Command of government and private sector entities was set up to oversee and coordinate response efforts at the well, the Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement (BSEE) said in a press release July 29. The U.S. Coast Guard, BSEE and the well owner, Walter Oil & Gas, will oversee and coordinate the handling of the well.
In the meantime, the safety of personnel and the protection of the environment remained the top priorities, BSEE said.
Lars Herbst, the Gulf of Mexico regional director for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, has formed a Panel Investigation into the cause of the loss of well control, according to the press release. The panel, which will develop recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future, will be led by a BSEE Gulf of Mexico region engineer, and include investigators and engineers from the Gulf Region and Headquarters, BSEE said.
The investigation involves the review of information provided by witnesses and subject matter experts. Forensic testing will also be performed.
For the sake of safety, all options for the resolution of the incident were being considered. Walter applied for and was granted a permit application to drill a relief well, and the jackup Rowan EXL III (350’ ILC) is on location and preparing to drill, BSEE said. The purpose of a relief well is to intercept the original well. Then, drilling mud is pumped into the well, followed by cement to close off the well.
In flyovers, a slight sheen on the surface of the water was detected. However, the sheen is quickly dissipating, BSEE said, and the Coast Guard is maintaining a 1640-foot (500-meter) safety zone around the site.
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