Faulty Seal Leads to Oil Well Blast

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 @ 02:04 PM gHale

A failed seal on a well created a pressure buildup of air and crude oil which led to an explosion near Loco Hills, NM, Wednesday leaving four people injured, officials said.

One worker ended up flown by helicopter to the University Medical Center in Lubbock, TX, after a failed seal on a well created a pressure buildup within the well after a pipe released below the surface, resulting in a blowout, according to the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office.

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Mesa Well Servicing workers were conducting routine maintenance on an oil well owned by Apache Corporation when emergency officials got a call just before 8 a.m. because of a discharge of well fluids at the Lea Federal No. 87 drill rig.

Three workers ended up treated and released at Carlsbad Medical Center, Apache Corporation officials said. The status of the fourth worker transported to Lubbock was not immediately available and authorities did not release the names of the employees who needed medical treatment.

“We’re trying to monitor (the situation) and we don’t have any current information,” said Bill Mintz, a senior advisor for public affairs with Apache Corporation. “Apache’s priorities are the safety of our employees, contractors and the public; protection of the environment and safe resumption of operations.”

Apache Corporation said despite the blowout, there was no fire at the well site and no hydrogen sulfide release ended up detected. Workers closed off the oil well after the incident, Mintz said. Industrial accidents may occur out in the field, but Sergeant Michael Chavarria said the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office usually doesn’t respond to blowouts like the one in Loco Hills.

“It varies but it’s pretty rare for that to happen,” Chavarria said. “As far as explosions, it’s not a very common incident.”

Investigators are trying to determine if the accident caused any spills or release of hazardous materials. Mesa Well Servicing declined to comment on the incident.