TX Well Blowout; Toxic Gas Releases

Thursday, December 10, 2015 @ 03:12 PM gHale

Over 40 people evacuated from a 2-square-mile area east of Seminole, TX, following an oil well blowout Tuesday morning.

The well head blew off at 6:11 a.m., according to Gaines County investigators, and released clouds of toxic fumes containing hydrogen sulfide (H2S). The colorless, flammable gas occurs naturally in crude petroleum and is “extremely hazardous,” according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

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The hydrogen sulfide concentration of the well prior to the incident is unknown. There were no injuries in the incident.

“H2S will kill you,” said Gaines County Sheriff Ronny Pipkin. “That’s just the bottom line … We’re lucky nobody was hurt.”

Houston-based Tabula Rasa Energy operates the well, Pipkin said. Company representatives were not immediately available for comment.

Gas continued billowing out of the well site, about 4 miles east of Seminole and 1.5 miles north of Highway 80, hours after the initial blowout.

Authorities have yet to determine what led to the pressure control failure that resulted in the forceful eruption of toxic fumes.

“This is not going to be a quick fix,” Pipkin said. “We do have folks out there … monitoring it with H2S gas monitors to ensure [the gas] doesn’t go out of this [2-square-mile evacuation] area.”

The “danger zone” will likely expand if wind patterns change, he added.

Evacuees may not be able to return home for several days, officials said.

Tabula Rasa “will offer local hotel rooms for displaced residents who have no other option for temporary relocation.”

Pipkin said evacuees can also seek shelter at the Gaines County Civic Center, located at 402 NW 5th St.