Loss of well control on rig in U.S. Gulf

Hercules leakJULY 23, 2013—The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) will be conducting an investigation into the cause of the loss of well control event aboard a Hercules jack-up rig in 154 feet of water 55 miles offshore Louisiana.

A BSEE photo of the Hercules 265 jack-up rig showing cloud of natural gas resulting from a loss of well control event

The BSEE and the U. S. Coast Guard have stood up a Command Center in their continued response to the loss of well control. According to the BSEE, the operator, Walter Oil and Gas Corporation, experienced a loss of control of Well A-3 at about 8:45 a.m. on an unmanned platform at South Timbalier Block 220 while doing completion work on the sidetrack well to prepare the well for production.

Walter Oil and Gas reported the safe evacuation of 44 personnel, corrected from earlier reports of 47, from the Hercules 265 jack-up rig. The personnel were evacuated to the platofrm supply vessel Max Cheramie, according to sources.

Natural gas continues to flow from the well. Based on an earlier overflight of inspectors, BSEE also reports "a cloud of natural gas above the rig and a light sheen on the water one-half mile by 50 feet in area that is quickly dissipating."

BSEE Gulf of Mexico Regional Director Lars Herbst said, “BSEE’s efforts today are focused on bringing this loss of well control event to a safe resolution. Offshore oil and gas operators need to re-affirm their aggressive approach to the safety of well operations in light of this event and other recent well control events.”

The nature of the blowout is unknown. The rig repordtely had two 10,000 psi Blowout Preventers (BOPs) manufactured by Cameron.

A firefighting vessel is expected to be on location this evening with both water and foam fire fighting abilities. Walter Oil and Gas Corporation will be conducting a site assessment prior to beginning any work on the well. BSEE will be reviewing and approving all plans and procedures to stop the flow of gas and secure the well.

The U.S. Coast Guard is providing safety management oversight and have deployed the following resources: the 87-foot Coast Guard Cutter and crew Pompano, one MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans and one HC-144 Ocean Sentry from Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile. 

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