WY Well Blowout Plugged

Monday, April 30, 2012 @ 05:04 PM gHale

Workers today plugged an out of control oil well spewing methane gas after a blowout in east-central Wyoming.

Workers with Houston-based well control company Boots & Coots were able to plug the well Monday, six days after the Tuesday afternoon blowout.

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The risk of an explosion and fire was strong enough that a voluntary evacuation order applied to 67 residents within two and a half miles of the well, according to Converse County Emergency Management Coordinator Russ Dalgarn.

About 50 people heeded the evacuation advisory but were able to come and go to check on their property.

The blowout happened as workers were installing steel casing down the Chesapeake Energy Combs Ranch Unit well site, drilled to nearly 18,000 feet horizontally and vertically. The well was targeting the Niobrara Shale formation that underlies eastern Wyoming, northern Colorado and western Nebraska.

Oil-based drilling mud also escaped from the well but remained mostly contained on the site of the Trinidad 223 drilling rig owned by Calgary, Alberta-based Trinidad Drilling. No workers suffered an injury.

An attempt to plug the well with mud was on hold because an overnight wind shift was pushing the gas over equipment staged to begin the operation, Dalgarn said.

Although the well was relatively close to Douglas, population 6,100, the area immediately nearby was mostly undeveloped rolling prairie. Dalgarn estimated the nearest house was just over a mile away.

Air monitors showed “normal” conditions around the site, Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake said Thursday.

Chesapeake spokeswoman Kelsey Campbell said the monitors were within two miles of the blowout.

Nearly every new oil well in Wyoming undergoes a process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” that involves pumping large amounts of water mixed with chemicals and fine sand down the well bore to crack open fissures and improve the flow of oil and gas.

The well was at its intended depth but officials had not started the fracking process.