Focus On Safety In Aftermath of Gas Well Blowout

Regulators may give more attention to shallow-water drilling in the future following the blowout of a natural gas well and subsequent rig fire off the coast of Louisiana last week.

The A-3 natural gas well at South Timbalier Block 220, owned by Walter Oil & Gas, had a blowout July 23. Leaking gas from the well ignited later that evening, leading to a fire on the Hercules 265 (250’ MC) jackup, owned by Hercules Offshore Inc.

The incident is being investigated by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Following the initial blowout, 44 rig workers were safely evacuated, James Noe, Hercules executive vice president, told Rigzone.

“We welcome the investigation that BSEE and the Coast Guard will conduct and look forward to working with them. We all want to get to the bottom of what happened and why,” Noe said to Rigzone.

Safety is also at the top of the priority list with BSEE.

“This vent and other recent incidents serve as a reminder that industry must rededicate its efforts to make safety its top priority, including in shallow water,” James Watson, federal BSEE director, said in a statement.

BBSE formed a Unified Command to analyze and review all options for resolving the incident, BSEE said.

Gas detectors and high-capacity water jet fire monitors were installed on the rig for the safety of the rig and the well intervention operations.

BSEE has approved a permit submitted by Walter to drill a relief well, and a jackup contracted by Walter, the Rowan EXL III (350 ILC), is on location at South Timbalier 220 and is being prepared to drill a relief well.

The purpose of a relief well is to intercept the original well, allowing drilling mud and cement to be pumped into the well to secure it.

It is expected that the drilling of the relief well will begin early Thursday, and will take a little over a month to intercept the original well bore, BSEE said.

The Coast Guard has established a 500-foot safety zone around the site, and firefighting vessels are onsite, along with personnel from Walter, Hercules, engineering contractors and federal agencies.


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