HOUSTON, July 30 (Reuters) - Crews expect to start drilling on Thursday a relief well to help permanently plug a ruptured shallow-water natural gas well off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, a U.S. regulator said on Tuesday.
The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which regulates oil and gas activity in the Gulf, said the relief well would take about 35 days to drill.
Sediment that naturally bridged over the ruptured well stopped the flow of natural gas last week. BSEE said the relief well would intercept it underneath the seabed so crews could pump in cement to permanently seal it.
BSEE also said a sheen that had been seen near the well was gone.
The well, owned by privately held Walter Oil & Gas, ruptured a week ago. Flowing natural gas caught fire on Hercules Offshore Inc's jackup rig in 154 feet (47 m) of water about 55 miles (88.5 km) south of the Louisiana coastline.
Forty-four workers were evacuated after the rupture. No one was hurt.
Walter hired a different driller, Rowan Companies Plc , to drill the relief well, BSEE said. Hercules said last week that the fire had caused "extensive damage" to its rig.
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